Cardboard cathedral gets the go-ahead in Christchurch

A Japanese architect has designed a transitional cathedral for Christchurch, New Zealand, until a new permanent structure is built.

Shigeru Ban's $4.5 million structure will be built using cardboard and metal containers set into a concrete foundation.

The original 131-year-old neo-Gothic cathedral has been earmarked for demolition following an earthquake in February last year in which its spire collapsed.

The transitional cathedral omits a spire, opting instead for a simple A-frame that will be able to seat up to 700 people.

Richard Gray, of the Transitional Cathedral Group, said: “This is a very exciting next step for the project. The transitional cathedral is a symbol of hope for the future of this city as well as being sustainable and affordable.

“The cathedral is confident it will attract interest nationally and internationally drawing additional visitors to the city.”

Once completed, the building is expected to last well over twenty years. In addition to providing a place for worship, the cathedral will also serve as a venue for concerts, exhibitions and community events.

Container annexes will provide additional space for a cafe, meeting rooms, a shop and offices.

Bishop of Christchurch, the Rt Rev Victoria Matthews said: “I am delighted we have reached this step and I acknowledge the wonderful collaboration between the congregations of the cathedral and St John’s that has made a transitional cathedral possible in the inner city.”

Mr Gray said that the "bulk of the money" was already at hand but that some further fundraising would still be needed to cover the full costs of the project.

The transitional cathedral is the largest emergency structure to be designed by Shigeru Ban.

He and associate architect Yoshie Narimatsu did not charge for their services.

The building is due for completion by December and there are hopes that its formal opening will coincide with a visit to the country by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.