Cardboard Cathedral a sign of the re-emergence of Christchurch

The city of Christchurch is in the midst of what is, and will continue to be, a painstaking rebuild in the aftermath of the series of devastating earthquakes in 2011. But the signs of progress are popping up throughout the area’s CBD, as evidenced by the transitional cathedral that officially opened last month.

The ‘cardboard cathedral’, as it is unofficially known, was built upon the Latimer Square site of St John the Baptist Church, a neo-gothic structure built back in 1850 that was Christchurch’s first Anglican cathedral.

Designed pro bono by Japanese ‘disaster architect’ Shigeru Ban, the transitional cathedral has been constructed of nearly 100 cardboard tubes in an A-frame design, supported by shipping containers at its base and housed underneath a polycarbonate roof. Its entrance sits below stained triangular glass that reflects images of the original cathedral’s facade. Its beauty is particularly apparent at night, when light impressively illuminates the entire cathedral.

The space will not only be used for church services but also concerts, art exhibitions or simply a place of reflection and can accommodate up to 700 visitors.

The transitional cathedral has been designed to last for up to 50 years, though it is expected to exist for around a decade until something more permanent is put in place. For now, it stands as a unique, creative testament to the dedication the people of Christchurch exhibit on a daily basis as they reconstruct their city. More importantly, it is a sign of progress.


About the author

Chad has a penchant for music, travel and ecologically sustainable urban design. He has a particular interest in the work of Jan Gehl, and wishes more Australian cities would do the same.