Bomb the Ban? The Cardboard Cathedral


”The transitional cathedral is a symbol of hope for the future of this city as well as being sustainable and affordable… it will attract interest nationally and internationally, drawing additional visitors to the city.” Richard Gray, Transitional Cathedral Group, Anglican Diocese 

Gray’s elegy will no doubt be directed at what may be a virtually demolished Christ Church Cathedral in a few weeks time. His interim eulogy for the Transitional Cathedral (aka The Cardboard Cathedral) and its creator Shigeru Ban is optimistically effusive. 

With a Canadian bishop, a Japanese architect, and a Scandinavian-looking structure the proposed temporary but relocatable ecclestiastical edifice will be cosmopolitan if not quite ecumenical, though it will also provide a venue for concerts, exhibitions, civic and community events.  

It is expected the 700-person-capacity structure will be completed by December at a construction cost at $4 million.* 

The soil has already been symbolically turned on the cathedral’s planned site, where the former parish church of St John’s stood pre-quakes, on the corner of Hereford and Madras Streets.

The Ban design, with help from local arhitects Warren and Mahoney, is a too much for some people, not enough for others. One unPollyana has fretted that in the first decent nor’wester the CC will be blown away Judy Garland/ Wizard of Oz  fashion. (Cue plug for the video of Eva Cassidy’s marvellous live version, just before she died, of Over The Rainbow*). 

The Wizard of Christchurch, chanelled by Ian Brackenbury Channell QSM from that other Oz may not feel inclined to intervene meteorogically given the stoush about the Stone Cathedral. However, as well as cardboard tubes the innovative structure will comprise timber beams and structural steel.

Linked containers will sit alongside the cathedral to house a cafe, shop, meeting rooms, amenities and offices. With better early warning systems the containers will help speedy diocesan evacuation in the event of a Tsunami starting near South America. A local citizen is helping by building an ark.* It hasn’t been established if he’s an Anglican.

The CC will serve as a temporary cathedral until a new Christ Church Cathedral is constructed, and will then remain in place as St John’s parish church. Designed to last more than 20 years, it will be the largest ”emergency structure” Ban has designed after working in disaster zones, including Rwanda in 1994, Kobe after the 1995 quake, Turkey in 1999 and Haiti  2010.

It still jolts to realise that Christchurch has joined that gloomy catalogue of international disasters.

Light Footprints 

At this still uncertain time seismically, both temporary and “permanent” buildings which sit lightly but safely on the land-not necessarily in their final place on the urban chess board-make a lot of sense.  

The temporary AMI Rugby Stadium is in a league of its own, having just avoided another national disaster last night when the All Blacks got the drop on the unshakeable Irish team in the last minute. 

The first sod has already been turned by the Chief Plod for the new temporary police station. Emergency services are looking to share accommodation and communications to speed future response. 

The Re:Start the Heart initiative in City Mall* is the well known temporary central city retail enclave. Opened in time for Cup Week last year, with free Wi Fi and anchored by Ballantynes department store, Re:START houses in colurful containers many businesses previously located in the central city. (Next time you walk through the accessible parts of the CBD try using UC HitLab’s City ViewR* to show you the buildings that have been demolished). 

The Westpac Business and Professional Hub at Addington*is a timely non-user pays, no strings attached part-time office and meeting spaces for those like us who have lost their offices because of earthquakes.  Like a temporary overdraft facility when you really need it but with no interest (apart from that shown by the helpful staff) the Hub, looking like a canvas and  plastic laminated aircraft hanger, is extremely well appointed with free WiFi courtesy of Telecom. It’s a great boon, especially for small businesses and community events. 

In the longer term Professor Andy Buchanan, Engineer, University of Canterbury College of Engineering and his colleagues are set to transform the look and feel of the buildings of the future, constructing commercial multi-storey buildings with timber.

Timber is a lighter and more environmentally-friendly building material that can be stronger and safer in earthquakes than the concrete and steel mini monoliths that overwhelmed heritage buildings (think: the Telecom building breathing down the neck of the old Central Post Office) in the pre-quakes building landscape.

The Ban Cathedral is just one of a number of innovative approaches to both temporary and longer lasting solutions for the city’s community and business problems post-quakes. 

Whatever the outcome for Christ Church Cathedral and whichever option is chosen, given the time scales involved, there are needs to be met in the interim years and decades ahead. If the city centre is to hold the transitional is just as important as the final result. 

When she returns the Bishop can probably read the bans for the Cardboard Cathedral for the third time without too much apprehension. She’ll have enough on her hands in Cathedral Square to worry about thinking too much outside it.


Work set to start on cardboard cathedral |  Eva Cassidy Over The Rainbow – LIVE  VID
Man builds ark after flood warning  CityViewAR is a mobile Augmented Reality application that allows people to see how the city was before the earthquakes and building demolitions. Using an Android mobile phone people can walk around the city and see life-sized virtual models of what the buildings looked like on site before they were demolished.

#Lyall Lukey  17 June 2012 My other (bit more serious) blog 


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