By Nick Perry
Wellington, New Zealand — A cathedral made from cardboard.
The idea might sound flimsy, particularly given that cathedrals tend to be known for their solid presence: the flying buttresses, the soaring domes, the Gothic grandeur. But in the earthquake-devastated city of Christchurch, Anglican leaders believe it will deliver both a temporary solution and a statement about the city’s recovery.
They announced plans to build a 82-foot-high cathedral built with 104 tubes of cardboard. The structure will be a temporary replacement for the iconic stone ChristChurch Cathedral, which was ruined last year in an earthquake that killed 185 people and destroyed much of the downtown.
The Rev. Craig Dixon, a church spokesman, said the temporary cathedral would seat 700 people, cost as much as $4.1 million, and would be used for 10 years while a permanent replacement is designed and built.
The Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban, has used cardboard as a material for other temporary buildings, including a “paper church” which used as a community center after the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan.
Dixon said he wanted construction to begin within about six weeks and be completed by the end of the year.
“I think this building has the potential to become an icon in its own right,” he said. “I think it will be greatly loved for a long time.”
Dixon said the structure would be weatherproof and fire-resistant. He said the plan was to use traditional materials such as concrete, steel and wood to provide structural support to the A-frame-style cathedral and an attached annex.
As much as two dozen shipping containers inside would provide space for offices, a kitchen and storage, he added, while the roof would be made of an opaque polycarbonate material.
Richard Gray, the chairman of a church group that has been driving the project, said the cathedral would make a statement that Christchurch was moving forward, and that people were finding solutions that not only were innovative but also environmentally friendly — after all, he points out, the cathedral would be recyclable.
Anglican leaders in Christchurch have chosen a site in Latimer Square, about 300 yards from the ruins of the current cathedral and near where 115 people died when the Canterbury Television building collapsed.
“It’s very symbolic that it’s across the road from the CTV building,” Gray said. “It’s very poignant.”
Anglican leaders have yet to submit their final plans to city officials, who would need to approve them before construction could begin. City officials did not respond to requests for comment, although Gray said he was confident the church had done its due diligence and the project would be approved.