It’s a Miracle! Cardboard Cathedral by Shigeru Ban

 By Jody McCutcheon

A testament to human resilience and sustainability, Christchurch’s Cardboard  Cathedral was designed by Japanese “disaster” architect Shigeru Ban following the  February, 2011, earthquake that devastated Christchurch.
There were many obstacles holding the construction of this six-storey Cathedral back, such as bitter arguments over the decision to pull down the original neo-Gothic cathedral, designed by the British architect George Gilbert Scott. But the main problems were bureaucratic red tape and financial haggling, which delayed the opening of the building for a year.

Despite being made of what’s essentially paper, these massive, cardboard tubes supporting the sloping roof are weatherproof, fire resistant and strong enough to withstand earthquake forces.  Wherever possible, the Shigeru Ban cathedral used locally sourced materials.  


The beauty, simplicity, practicality and eco-friendliness of the construction won it widespread approval around the world. It is the most dramatic new addition to Christchurch following the earthquake, but the city has many other projects in development, including a new sports centre and a shopping precinct.

Sustainable, recyclable and durable, with a stained glass faà§ade lending the aesthetic  a certain, ecumenical gravity, the Cathedral functions as a parish, an educational centre, a music venue, an art exhibition and, fittingly, a shelter for earthquake victims.  In short, it’s the perfect place to contemplate the power of Nature, and how to treat her right.
Ban’s ecological and humanitarian approach to his work has won him international kudos, and has also raised the (recycled cardboard) bar for other architects, challenging them to become more creative and eco-friendly in their constructions.
Images: Bridgit Anderson and Eugene Coleman
Jody McCutcheon
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