How the strength of cardboard tubes is behind the New Zealand city’s cardboard cathedral
Note the cardboard tubes: each of the tubes of Christchurch’s cardboard cathedral weigh 500kg. Image by Schwede66 (Creative Commons License: Attribution-Share Alike).
Never underestimate the strength of cardboard tubes. Over the last month, we have learned about its merits as a construction material for furniture. Today, we have learned about its qualities in building works. On opening in 2013, Christchurch’s transitional cathedral building created a stir among its city’s residents. One person, known as The Wizard of New Zealand, thought the design was “kitsch”. What could have created a stir is its building materials: cardboard tubes and containers. In short, a cardboard cathedral.
Why a cardboard cathedral?
On the 22 February 2011, the city of Christchurch was struck by its second earthquake over the last year. Measuring 6.3 on the Richter Scale, it followed a previous heavier earthquake on the 04 September 2010. It claimed the lives of 185 people and the city’s buildings took a hit – only months after the previous one. Christchurch Cathedral also took a hit, which led to the construction of its present transitional structure.
The original cathedral after the 2011 earthquake. Image by Jakub Cejpek (via Shutterstock).
Discussions over the cardboard cathedral were made between Craig Dixon (the cathedral’s marketing and development manager) and Shigeru Ban. Mr. Ban, an architect by trade, was called upon to design the transitional cardboard cathedral. The centrepiece of his design is the A-frame roof and its striking stained glass front window. This is supported by 86 cardboard tubes, each weighing 500 kg. These are placed atop metal containers, six metres in length.
Shigeru Ban is known as a disaster architect, owing to the fact that most of his commissions have covered cities affected by natural disasters. He agreed to do his work pro bono for the cathedral. In spite of polarising opinion, the cardboard cathedral opened in 2013. It is, as per Mr. Dixon’s aspirations, a civic hall, and a concert hall, as well as a place of worship.
Today, it is a busy place with concerts and recitals taking place on a regular basis. Facing Latimer Square, it is on the edge of Christchurch Central near the city’s shops and transport termini. It can seat up to 700 people.
A cardboard cathedral: I wonder what they’ll be thinking of next? From the photographs, it looks awesome.
The Christchurch Transitional Cathedral is on 234 Hereford Street, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand. Flights to Christchurch from Manchester Airport usually require changing at Dubai or Munich, followed by another change at Sydney or Melbourne. Please allow 30 to 45 hours for your journey.