An elegant Cardboard Cathedral

Christchurch Cardboard Cathedral

My latest post-earthquake passion is a world’s first of its kind. The new Christchurch Cardboard Cathedral opened to the public on 6 August. The Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is responsible for the beautiful, elegant and innovative design of this new ‘temporary’ architecture. Ban is renowned internationally and has received many awards including the Auguste Perret Prize in 2011 and Honorary Doctorate of Technical University of Munich in 2009. He is known for applying architectural new technologies especially in post-disaster environments. The building was then executed by Christchurch company Warren and Mahoney.

The main Anglican church in Christchurch, the Christchurch Cathedral, is located in the heart of the city and has been badly damaged in the February 2011 earthquake. It has not been decided yet if the building will be demolished and substituted by a new one or will be disassembled to be built back. While the discussions take their time and place, Christchurch celebrates its new (awesome!) temporary sanctuary.

The Cathedral is composed by container structures – which work as ‘walls’, and make space for chapels and deposits -, cardboard tubes (or paper tube structures) and many other structural elements such as wood and steel. The paper tubes are covered with polycarbonate sheets for rain protection. Viewed from outside – by observant eyes – one can notice the very gentle hyperbolic paraboloid that gives shape to the roof structure. The same shape can be seen inside when looking at the structure from a certain point in the back of the church. All structure was built in Christchurch with recycled material. The furniture was also designed and built locally, and is very elegant especially when grouped.

The north-facing stained glass has motifs based upon the original Christchurch Cathedral’s rose window and provide a beautiful light inside of the space when the sun reaches it. The Cathedral was designed and built to last 50+ years, but I do hope it lasts more than that. It is a precious piece of the ‘in-between times’ that Christchurch has been living in the last 2 years and 7 months.

The Cathedral is located next to the site where the CTV building was prior to the earthquake. The CTV building collapsed taking the lives of 115 people. As a temporary memorial the site now hosts 185 white chairs, total number of deaths in the February 2011 earthquake.



Roof structure in hyperbolic paraboloid shape


Detail of the roof paper tube structure
Roof paper tube structure
Design chairs and altar in the back
Stained glass with motifs inspired by the Christchurch Cathedral rose window
Christchurch Cardboard Cathedral



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