Christchurch Cathedral options weighed

An artist’s rendering of a contemporary design for a new cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, which received the most support of three options at a recent synod. Photos: Courtesy of ENS/Anglican Taonga.
Published April 15, 2013

According to Taonga News, the synod of the diocese of Christchurch has resoundingly endorsed a modern architectural vision for the new cathedral to be built in the square where an earthquake destroyed the historic one in 2010.

Over the weekend, the synod heard a presentationfrom the Cathedral Project Group and Warren & Mahoney about thethree cathedral options – restored, traditional or contemporary. Bishop Victoria Matthews asked the more than 200 synod members and observers for a show of hands to indicate which option they favoured. There were no votes for  a “stone-for-stone” restoration. A few voted for a traditional option, but most supported the most modern of the three designs, the diocesan publication Anglican Taonga has reported on its website.

Three design options were unveiled early in April, and the diocese of Christchurch and the Church Property Trustees are making a number of public presentations about the three options during the month. They plan to actively seek feedback from the public, with a website set up for that purpose, which will be live until May 3. At that point, the Cathedral Property Group will collate and reviewthat feedback – and feed that summarized info to the Church PropertyTrustees, which will select a preferred option, Anglican Taonga reported.

The three options are:

Restored – a back-to-foundations restoration of the iconiccathedral, but seismically strengthened. Quantity surveyors estimatethis would cost a minimum of $104 million and up to $221 million,depending on how many years are needed to raise the money.

If everything went to plan, restoring the building would take 6.5years. But if fundraising is slow, the quantity surveyors suggest itcould take more than 20 years to complete.

Traditional – this option  acknowledges the GothicRevival form of the old cathedral, but veers away from heavy masonry andslate in favor of lightweight materials. It would be clad inlightweight glass reinforced concrete, with a laminated timber interiorand a copper-over-ply roof.

This option would feature a belltower – but in its upper reaches, this tower would be filigreed.

Quantity surveyors estimate the traditional model cathedral wouldcost between $85 million and $181 million, and would take between fiveand 22 years to finish, again depending on how quickly money can be raised.

Christchurch Cathedral traditional
Christchurch Cathedral traditional

Contemporary – the modern option still acknowledges the past,with its central axis aligned along Worcester St, and the “prayinghands” curved roof, recalling the vertical forms and pointed arches ofGothic Revival architecture.

This option would feature a restored rose window on the western glasswall, and a glass and steel belltower. It has been estimated at $56million to $74 million and, depending on the time needed to raise funds,it could take between 4.5 and 9.5 years to build.

Christchurch Cathedral contemporary
Christchurch Cathedral contemporary

The three options were outlined on April 3 to the Chapter ofChristChurch Cathedral, and then again to a combined meeting of theCathedral Property Group, the Church Property Trustees and the DiocesanStanding Committee.

Consulting engineer Marcus Read launched the presentation to theChapter, and said he was “really excited to be able to show the publicthat the last 18 months work has got us somewhere – other than to court.

“We are hoping this project will inspire the city to look to the future.”

Bishop Matthews began the second presentation by quoting from2nd Chronicles, where King Solomon dedicates the temple he had built:

18  ‘But will God indeed reside with mortals on earth? Evenheaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less thishouse that I have built! 19  Have regard to your servant’s prayer and his plea, O Lord  my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you. 20  Mayyour eyes be open day and night towards this house, the place where youpromised to set your name, and may you heed the prayer that yourservant prays towards this place.

The options were to be outlined at a media conference, with information stands erected around the city and15,000 postcards distributed.

Public feedback on the options will be collated and circulated to theCathedral Project Group for review after May 3 – and thus equipped, theCPG, Church Property Trustees and the Diocesan Standing Committee willdecide on their preferred option.

This option will then be outlined to the High Court, which will cometo a decision on the case brought by the Great Christchurch BuildingsTrust to stop deconstruction of the quake-damaged cathedral.

Editor’s note: This story is an abridged version of an April 4 story by Lloyd Ashton in Anglican Taonga and incorporates an April 14 update from Taonga News.


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