In the wake of the earthquake that struck the city last year, Christchurch is building a temporary cathedral – out of cardboard.

Shigeru Ban's transitional cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand
Shigeru Ban's transitional cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand

World-renowned paper architect Shigeru Ban is helping put the city of Christchurch back together again with the design of a cardboard cathedral. Christchurch’s landmark cathedral, St John’s church, was demolished after suffering severe damage in last February’s earthquake.

Now, a new temporary structure will be built in Latimer Square and offer a transitional space for the community to worship while discussions continue about how to replace the original cathedral. Expected to cost £2.7m to build, it will house up to 700 people and last at least 20 years.

Beautiful and intriguing, the design for the cathedral is a simple A-frame structure based on the proportions of the nave of the original cathedral and has a stunning interior view of the waves of cardboard columns that bow towards the altar. It is hoped that the building will become a focus for the community, a symbol of hope and a space for concerts and exhibitions. As well as providing a place to tell the story of Christchurch’s damaged heritage to locals and tourists alike.

Known as an ’emergency architect’, Ban creates safe temporary structures. His work has become renowned across the world for innovation, creativity, sustainability and positivity – having created temporary housing after earthquakes in both Turkey and Taiwan.

Cardboard is the ideal construction material, he says. it’s readily available, recyclable, surprisingly strong and, believe it or not, able to withstand earthquakes. Ban normally encourages the community to get involved with the build and students in particular, so that his skills and experience can be passed onto future generations.

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