Symbolising new beginnings and transition, Christchurch’s ‘Cardboard’ Cathedral has stood as a unique and stunning structure since its creation in 2013 following Christchurch’s devastating earthquake in 2011.
Christchurch’s original cathedral was a slow process that was on and off for years due to funding until its completion in 1905. It was built by Jamieson and Sons, renowned builders in Christchurch’s early years. With an impressive height of 24 feet it was an impressive structure and a beautiful place for visitors to come visit from all over the country and world.
Prior to 2011’s earthquake, the cathedral had survived minor earthquake damage in past years and was a strong component in the wider community that housed the country’s only professional boys’ choir – only one of two in the Southern Hemisphere. As a landmark, it also hosted a number of local musical performances and an annual flower festival and bells that rang marking both religious and non-religious celebrations.
After its official deconsecrating ceremony a few months after the February quake, it was decided a new structure be built as a temporary place of worship while deciding what to do with the original cathedral. The new structure was designed by environmentally conscious Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban, who works predominantly with recycled materials like paper and cardboard tubing. Having experience in designing and constructing temporary structures and shelters in the wake of natural disasters, he started designing the new sustainable cathedral to be made of materials such as cardboard tubing alongside wood, steel, polycarbonate. A place where tradition meets transition.
Built to withstand at least fifty years of use and able to accommodate 700 people the design was kept simplistic, the interior houses a simple cardboard cross at one end and multi-coloured windows house a link to the damaged Rose Window in the original cathedral alongside stunning stained glass ones. With the exterior of the structure completely translucent, it was purposely designed that way to create a changing atmosphere throughout different times of the day, allowing natural light to filter through. The cardboard cathedral is the world’s first ever created and since its creation has become a tourist attraction.
In 2019, a decision was made to finally demolish and rebuild the original cathedral with demolition work completed this year. At a estimated cost of $85 million, the new cathedral will be built adjacent to Christchurch’s Victoria Square, will be able to accommodate up to 1000 people with an estimate build time of 7–10 years. The new design plans to mimic the original 19th century style and will incorporate modern construction elements and features to improve safety, function, flexibility and more comfort for people.