Shigeru Ban completes Cardboard Cathedral
in Christchurch


News: the Cardboard Cathedral designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban opens to the public today in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The building was designed by Shigeru Ban as a temporary replacement for the city's former Anglican cathedral, which was destroyed by the earthquake that struck the city in February 2011. With an expected lifespan of around 50 years, it will serve the community until a more permanent cathedral can be constructed.

The building features a triangular profile constructed from 98 equally sized cardboard tubes. These surround a coloured glass window made from tessellating triangles, decorated with images from the original cathedral's rose window.

Cardboard Cathedral by Shigeru Ban

The main hall has the capacity to accommodate up to 700 people for events and concerts, plus eight steel shipping containers house chapels and storage areas below.

The cathedral had initially been scheduled to open in February, but was subject to a series of construction delays. The first service will now be held on Sunday 11 August.

The reconstruction of the permanent cathedral building has been a controversial topic in recent months, after critics rejected two contemporary designs and called for the building to be restored to its original gothic appearance. The selected design has yet to be announced.

Cardboard Cathedral by Shigeru Ban

Shigeru Ban has used cardboard on a number of pavilions and structures in recent years, particularly on disaster relief projects. Other examples include a temporary gallery in Moscow with cardboard columns and a cardboard pavilion at the IE School of Architecture and Design in Madrid.

Dezeen interviewed Shigeru Ban back in 2009, when he explained that he considers "green design" to be just a fashion, but that he is most interested in "using materials without wasting".

See more architecture by Shigeru Ban »
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  • pipo

    Applause! very nice project.

  • paulo

    A strong approach to the problem of providing a place of worship during the Church rebuild effort. Let’s hope it becomes permanent and maybe the nostalgic push reconstruction of the original can go away. No, it will not replace the cathedral, but maybe offer a notion on how something new can look great and engender a community feeling and a sacred space without looking like it is built in the 1800’s.

  • james

    Looks nice, but being a Christchurch resident and knowing New Zealand’s building climate, nowhere does it say how the cardboard tubes are filled with steel and timber and that the cardboard – which alone is not a suitable building material for the New Zealand climate (the cardboard warped a few weeks ago during heavy rain) – is only a facade as opposed to anything structural. Also 50 years doesn’t really constitute a ‘temporary’ building.

    • Shan

      I’m interested to know about the cardboard warping in the rain. Most of Ban’s other cardboard tube buildings do fine in the rain. There probably isn’t any steel or timber inside – aren’t most of his buildings structurally cardboard?

      It is just a finer grain MDF or timber composite after all. And you are right, in New Zealand 50 years isn’t a temporary building; that is the maximum length a building is ever guaranteed for according to the 3604 Timber Building Code.

      • Scott

        I’m not sure about his other buildings but it’s pretty common knowledge among anyone who cares here in NZ that the end design is pretty much just steel but with cardboard around it. It’s unfortunate because it seems like a really cool idea but perhaps it just wasn’t possible to use it structurally.

  • blau

    Paulo: “Let’s hope it becomes permanent?” vs “maybe the nostalgic push for reconstruction of the original can go away”. So you are proposing future nostalgia?

  • Davvid

    I feel like Shigeru Ban is capable of a more dynamic form than this. It feels too constrained by the material choice.

    There was something interesting about using humble materials 10-15 years ago. I think that today, it’s not enough to just use a surprisingly low-end material.

  • south

    I wonder if any architect designs a building to have “an expected lifespan of around 50 years” and truly believes it won’t exist after then.

  • gregory cornelius

    A cardboard Cathedral for the most secular and atheist city on the planet, which is ironically named Christchurch!

    In 50 years it’s highly likely Christchurch will not need a place of worship at all, so a temporary cardboard cathedral is about right.

  • Louis

    I grew up in that city before moving to London and was back post-quake. Unfortunately the cathedral – however beautiful – was simply politicians kicking a problem down the road.

    As Gregory said, Christchurch and New Zealand in general, is a very secular country with one of the highest levels of atheists in the world. There is low levels of crime and corruption – I wonder if there is a correlation? I digress.

    The people of Christchurch would have been rioting in the streets if the authorities had proposed paying the 10s or even 100s of millions it would cost to replace the collapsed cathedral with an equivalent building, hence a cheap, declared “temporary” building instead.

    This will be the new permanent cathedral as no one will dare spend that kind of money on a religious building in a country as secular as New Zealand.