New Zealand Church Made From Cardboard

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Shigeru Ban, Shigeru Ban Architects, Hermes, Hermes Pavilion, cardboard, pavilion, structure, Design Tide, Tokyo, Japan

For the recent Design Tide exhibition in Tokyo, Shigeru Ban Architects collaborated with luxury retailer Hermès for a project entitled "Hermes + Shigeru Ban Pavilion." The exhibition was made entirely out of paper and can be taken apart and reassembled as needed. Photo: Shigeru Ban Architects

A church made from cardboard will temporarily replace the Christchurch Cathedral that was heavily damaged when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck New Zealand’s Canterbury region in February.

The new structure, designed by Tokyo-based Shigeru Ban Architects, will be temporary but capable of serving the church community for at least 10 years, cathedral staff said.

The spire and part of the tower of the original Christchurch Cathedral, which dates back to 1864, were destroyed by the Feb. 22 quake, leaving only the lower half of the tower standing. Parts of the cathedral were deemed too dangerous for people to enter, and the church agreed to demolish unsafe portions of the historic structure, The Wall Street Journal reported last month.

Based on the floor plans for the project, which Shigeru Ban unveiled himself in August, the temporary “cardboard cathedral” will be based around 64 locally-produced cardboard tubes, which form an A-frame structure, and a foundation made from shipping containers, reports The Press – a New Zealand news source.

Why cardboard? Ban, who has been creating cardboard structures for more than 20 years, said it is the perfect building material: recyclable, readily-available and surprisingly strong.

“The strength of the building has nothing to do with the strength of the material,” Ban said. “Even concrete buildings can be destroyed by earthquakes but paper buildings cannot.”

“[Cardboard] is also consistently low-cost,” he explained. “Normally, after disasters, the price of building materials goes higher, but since this is not a traditional building material, it’s very easy to get.”

The firm’s buildings are completely weatherproof and fire-resistant and have lasted for more than 20 years, cathedral staff said. When the structures’ working lives are over, they can be easily deconstructed and recycled.

Representatives from the city’s Anglican cathedral contacted the Japanese architecture firm in April after seeing its design for a paper church in Kobe, Japan, and the firm has been working with cathedral staff free of charge since May, reports Plastics News. The Kobe installation, which served as an interim replacement for a church that was destroyed in a 1995 earthquake, was dismantled in 2005 and moved to another earthquake-torn community in Taiwan.

Construction on the cardboard church will begin in January and last approximately three months. The finished structure will cost about $3 million U.S. dollars and seat more than 700 people, cathedral staff said. In addition to performing its main function as a place of worship, the cathedral will also serve as a venue for concerts, art exhibitions, civic services and educational activities.

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