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In Quake-Damaged Christchurch, A “Cardboard Cathedral” Grows

Work has begun on what may be one of the largest-ever buildings created using cardboard tubes. Architect Shigeru Ban considers his work with the material part of his responsibility to society.

What’s the Latest Development?

Construction has begun on what people in the New Zealand city of Christchurch have dubbed the “cardboard cathedral,” which is meant to be a temporary replacement for the one that was severely damaged during last year’s 6.3-magnitude earthquake. The material being used is a 24-inch tube coated with polyurethane and flame retardants, and they will make up two sides of the A-frame structure, which will sit on a concrete base. The project will cost about NZ$ 5 million (US$ 4 million), and is being paid for by the Anglican Church along with insurance and donations from the public.

What’s the Big Idea?

Cardboard tubes, which are cheap and readily available, are the signature material of Shigeru Ban, who has gained worldwide attention for his emergency architecture design. He sees his work as a way for architects to give back to communities suffering from natural disasters. “People are not killed by earthquakes, they’re killed by collapsing buildings…That’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.” The Christchurch cathedral is being built to last 50 years, but the church envisions using it as a worship place for only 10; Ban says the local enthusiasm surrounding the project may cause officials to change their mind.

NigelSpiers /


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