When a magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand in February 2011 – severely damaging the city, including its iconic 19th cathedral – few people imagined that this tragedy would give rise to one of the most original and thoughtful examples of sustainable construction in recent years.
In April 2012, the work began on a temporary cathedral designed by renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. What makes this project particularly interesting is that the building – all 8,611 square feet of it – will be created entirely out of cardboard tubes and metal shipping containers. Supporting elements will be made of timber, steel and concrete.
Sustainable From Floor to Ceiling
This is a great example of a growing trend in sustainable architecture of using recycled materials not just as an afterthought or for finishings, but for significant elements of the structure. In recent years, we have seen examples of walls made of reclaimed plastics or effective insulation made of old newspapers. In another bow to sustainability, the design provides for small gaps between the tubes to allow natural light to filter through.
The building’s frame is triangular in cross-section, which Ban called “the most fundamental shape for shelter because it forms the walls and roof at the same time,” as quoted by Architectural Record. The A-frame of timber beams and steel will provide structural support for the lightweight materials.
Moreover, the project emphasizes the importance of considering material transportation costs and their impact on the environment. In fact, Ban sourced his cardboard locally from a Christchurch fabricator.
I could have shipped bigger tubes from Australia, but it was more important to me to use local materials – Shigeru Ban told the Record.
The 79 feet tall, 700-seat “Cardboard Cathedral” is expected to serve as a place of worship for 10 years as a new permanent church is built nearby.
Symbol of Hope, Magnet for Tourists
Richard Gray from the Transitional Cathedral Group said that the shrine is “a symbol of hope for the future of this city as well as being sustainable and affordable.” He expressed confidence that it would attract visitors to Christchurch from New Zealand and around the world.
The building is expected to cost around $4 million and open in time for Christmas 2012. In addition to religious functions it will also be used for concerts, exhibitions and community events, according to the cathedral’s website.
Shigeru Ban is internationally known for designing structures – including temporary housing and bridges – made of paper tubes and other non-traditional building materials around the world.