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Cardboard Cathedral

Christchurch, New Zealand
1 of 7

The Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, is the transitional pro-cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch opened in August 2013. The site, on the corner of Hereford and Madras Streets in Latimer Square, is several blocks from the permanent location of ChristChurch Cathedral, which was significantly damaged in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. The Cardboard Cathedral was designed by architect Shigeru Ban and seats around 700 people.


The Cardboard Cathedral is located on the corner of Madras and Hereford Streets on a section allocated to the Anglican church in Christchurch's original 1850 survey opposite Latimer Square. It was originally the site of St John the Baptist Church, the first church built in permanent materials by Anglicans in Christchurch, until it was demolished after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.


The building was designed pro bono by Shigeru Ban, who is characterised as a "disaster architect"; Ban collaborated with Christchurch architecture firm Warren and Mahoney.[4] In August 2011, it was reported that a new cathedral would open in February 2012, A-frame in style, rising 78 feet (24 m) in height, would incorporate 86 cardboard tubes of 1,100 pounds each atop 20 feet (6.1 m) long containers. However, it wasn't until April 2012 when the site was blessed, and construction began on 24 July 2012.At the same time as the site blessing, controversy raged in Christchurch about the Anglican diocese having applied to Christchurch City Council for an annual maintenance grant of NZ$240,000 for the Cardboard Cathedral; such a maintenance grant had for many years been given for ChristChurch Cathedral. With the Anglican Diocese determined to demolish ChristChurch Cathedral, though, there was widespread opposition to such an ongoing grant, and city councillors declined the request.

The Great Christchurch Building Trust (GCBT), co-chaired by former MPs Jim Anderton and Philip Burdon, took the Anglican Church to the High Court; first to determine whether the Anglican diocese's decision to demolish ChristChurch Cathedral breached an Act of Parliament that protects church buildings, and then whether an insurance payout for ChristChurch Cathedral can be used for the transitional cathedral. In November 2012, the church began fund-raising to pay for the NZ$5 million project, following the judge indicating it may not be legal for the church to build a temporary cathedral using its insurance payout, which the judge confirmed as illegal in April 2013.

Exposed cardboard which became wet before the building was fully enclosed had to be removed and was replaced. While construction was expected to be completed by Christmas 2012, it was pushed back several times. In February 2013, the NZ$5.3 million budget had increased to NZ$5.9 million because of cost escalations.Following the numerous delays, the church hierarchy became secretive about the opening date, and The Press reported on 2 August 2013 that the opening date was still unknown, only for an opening ceremony to be held later that day for a small number of invited guests. The contractor handed a symbolic key made from cardboard to the bishop.

The Cardboard Cathedral opened to the public on 6 August 2013 with a dedication service held on 15 August.


The cathedral rises 70 feet (21 m) above the altar. Materials used in its construction include 2 feet (0.61 m) diameter cardboard tubes, timber and steel. The roof is of polycarbon,[10] and is held up by eight shipping containers which form the walls. The foundation is concrete slab. The architect initially wanted the cardboard tubes to be the structural elements, but local manufacturers could not produce tubes thick enough, and importing the cardboard was rejected. The 96 tubes, reinforced with laminated wood beams, are "coated with waterproof polyurethane and flame retardants" leaving two-inch gaps between each so that light can filter into the cathedral. Instead of a replacement rose window, the building contains triangular pieces of stained glass. In addition to serving as a cathedral, the building serves as a conference venue.The Wizard of New Zealand, one of the strongest critics of the Anglican diocese for wanting to demolish ChristChurch Cathedral and who was previously a daily speaker in Cathedral Square, called the design of the Cardboard Cathedral "kitsch".

Lonely Planet named Christchurch one of the "top 10 cities to travel to in 2013" in October 2012, and the construction of the Cardboard Cathedral was cited as one of the reasons that makes the city an exciting place.

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mariathuroczy, April 30th, 2014
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