Heavy rains drench cardboard cathedral

An exterior shot of the transitional cardboard cathedral during the construction stage. Photo: Shigeru Ban Architects
An exterior shot of the transitional cardboard cathedral during the construction stage. Photo: Shigeru Ban Architects
Published July 19, 2013

Parts of Christchurch New Zealand’s transitional cardboard cathedral have become sodden following heavy rainfall in late June, but a church spokesperson expressed confidence that the project will still be completed next month.

The $5.3 million cathedral will be dedicated at a special service on Aug. 15, according to Anglican Taonga.

The cardboard cathedral will temporarily replace Christchurch’s Anglican cathedral, which was destroyed in a February 2011 earthquake that killed 185 people.

Designed by “emergency architect” Shigeru Ban, the 82-ft cathedral is being constructed with 24-inch cardboard tubes as well as timber beams, structural steel and a concrete pad.

Church spokesperson Jason Rhodes told New Zealand media that, “It was always known from the very beginning that there would be some rain that would hit the cardboard in some way, shape or form.” He said it was easy enough to pull out the damaged tubes and replace them.

“Some of the cardboard got wet when the building was not fully enclosed…the roof is now enclosed and finished so that same risk doesn’t exist,” Rhodes was quoted by AFP as having told radio station Newstalk ZB. “It’s nothing to be worried about at all. The builders anticipated this would happen. It’s just cosmetic.”

The cathedral was originally expected to be completed last December, but had been delayed by a number of factors. For one, “a Christchurch company could not make tubes thick enough to support the building, and Ban wanted to use local materials rather than import them,” reported New Zealand’s The Press. Heavy rain early in construction, the difficulty in installing the coloured windows and late design changes also delayed the project, it added.

The cathedral, which can seat 700 people, is being built on the site of St. John’s Church, which was damaged and had to be demolished in the earthquake’s aftermath. The cathedral congregation is expected to use it for 10 years, after which it will become the worship space for St. John’s parish.

Anglican Taonga reports that the first service in the transitional cathedral “will be reserved for cathedral ‘regulars’ who have been without a church of their own for two and a half years.”

An official dedication will take place at a civic service scheduled Sept. 1.

“We will use portions of Scripture that highlight the place of cities in the saving work of God in Christ,” said Christchurch Bishop Victoria Matthews, in a letter to her diocese.





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