Japanese architect Shigeru Ban has broken ground on a new cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, after the original was written off by the February 2011 earthquake.
The former 19th-century cathedral, cast in local basalt, was damaged beyond repair after its spire collapsed and the main structure sustained significant damage in the 6.3-magnitude tremor, which claimed the lives of 185 people. Bishop Victoria Matthews made the (not universally popular) decision to start from scratch and a new site was agreed onâ€”a few blocks from the Gothic Revival original on the corner ofÂ Hereford and Madras Street.
Shigeru Ban began working on the â€śtransitional cathedralâ€ť just two months after the earthquake, offering his services pro bono. The structure will be an A-frame constructed from 86 cardboard tubes, each measuring 17 meters, designed to meet earthquake and fire codesâ€”the tubes will be coated with a flame retardant and will be sprayed with polyurethane for waterproofing. On completion, the cathedral will have space for 700Â worshipers.
Although the new cathedral is designed to be temporaryâ€”church authorities have mooted 10 years while a permanent replacement is put upâ€”the frontage looks set to linger long in the memory of Cantabrians: a six-story stained glass window will complete the front wall, each of its triangular panes imbuing the surroundings with color.
â€śPeople are not killed by earthquakes, they’re killed by collapsing buildings,’ Shigeru Ban says. â€śThat’s the responsibility of architects but the architects are not there when people need some temporary structure because we’re too busy working for [the] privileged.â€ť
Construction of the cathedral is due to be completed in April.