Cardboard and cathedral are two words you don't often put together. Cathedrals are known for their sturdy presence, with flying buttresses, soaring domes, and Gothic grandeur. That, however, isn't stopping the residents of earthquake-ravaged Christchurch from rebuilding the city's iconic cathedral out of 104 tubes of cardboard.
Christchurch, the largest city on New Zealand's South Island, was badly damaged in the 6.3-magnitude February 2011 earthquake.
The Victorian-era, Gothic-style ChristChurch Cathedral, which dominated the city's central square, was a popular meeting place and tourist attraction until it was cordoned off soon after the quake. Any hope that it could be salvaged was destroyed after a large aftershock caused additional damage. Scheduled for demolition, church officials announced Monday plans to build a 25-meter (82-foot) cardboard cathedral in its place ... temporarily.
Richard Gray, of the Transitional Cathedral Group, called the planed building a symbol of hope for the future of the city, saying it's both sustainable and affordable.
It will give a location for people to come and reflect on what we've been through and, hopefully, gather inspiration for the future, he said at the press conference Monday, adding that he was confident it would attract tourists back to the city.
The bulk of the money is in hand, but there will be further fundraising to meet the costs of building the temporary structure, Gray said.
Work on the $4.1 million cardboard cathedral will begin next week on the nearby Latimer Square where it will remain for 20 years. The church will sit about 300 meters (330 yards) away from the ruins of the current cathedral and across the road from the Canterbury Television building where 115 people died in the quake.
With capacity for up to 700 people, the building will not only become the new place of worship for St. John's parish, but also a venue for concerts, with the church saying it will host the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra as well as pop stars Dave Dobbyn and Bic Runga.
Aside from the 104 tubes of cardboard, timber beams, structural steel, and a concrete pad will fortify the structure. Linked containers will sit alongside the cathedral to house a cafe, shop, meeting rooms, amenities and offices.
Japanese architect Shigeru Ban designed the A-frame structure. Ban is known for his reinforced paper and cardboard buildings. The temporary cathedral in Christchurch pays homage to his paper church, which he erected after the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan.
Ban is called an emergency architect, having built temporary structures in post-disaster centers across the globe, including ones in Turkey, China, Italy, and Haiti. The Christchurch cathedral will be his largest emergency structure to date and he is contributing his time free of charge.
The strength of the building has nothing to do with the strength of the material, he said of his design Monday.
Even concrete buildings can be destroyed by earthquakes very easily. But paper buildings cannot be destroyed by earthquakes.
It's also consistently low-cost, he added. Normally after disasters the price of building materials goes higher, but since this is not a traditional building material, it's very easy to get.
The emergency architect assured that the building will be weatherproof, secure, and fire resistant.
Completion of the cardboard cathedral is expected by December.
Mark Johanson is the travel editor at the International Business Times. He has traveled to and written about more than 30 nations and territories on every continent except...