Japanese architect tackles new Christchurch cathedral
BY DAISUKE IGARASHI STAFF WRITER
Shigeru Ban holds a rendition of the inside of the cardboard cathedral at his office in Tokyo. (Daisuke Igarashi)A model of a temporary cathedral Shigeru Ban, an architect and designer, is building with cardboard in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Provided by Shigeru Ban Architects)
A Japanese architect is using an unlikely construction material in his race against time to build a towering structure that will replace Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand after an earthquake earlier this year ravaged the city icon.
Shigeru Ban, 54, is using cardboard to fashion a new cathedral--a temporary building that will likely be used for about a decade--and hoping to complete construction to coincide with the first anniversary of the temblor on Feb. 22, 2012.
"Even concrete buildings collapse in a temblor, demonstrating that no structures last forever," Ban said. "A cardboard structure will stay in the minds of people forever if it is loved by them."
A powerful quake last February damaged the original stone cathedral that dates to 1864, collapsing its bell tower.
Another temblor in June further damaged the structure, shattering and breaking its stained glass panels on the front of the building.
Ban undertook the project for free after staff at the cathedral called him in April to request his assistance. They learned about his work through the Internet.
Ban, based in Tokyo, has built provisional homes made of cardboard around the world for people displaced by disasters, including the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
He is also involved in a similar project, this time with containers, for victims of the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake in Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture.
He expects to finance the construction costs of the cardboard cathedral, an estimated NZ$4 million (257.2 million yen, or $3.35 million), through donations.
A church made of cardboard tubes Ban built after the Great Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe was donated to Taiwan more than a decade after it was erected.
In late June, Ban was allowed to enter Christchurch's city center, which was sealed off after the devastating quake in February, to see the cathedral. He drew up some concepts for a temporary cathedral in just one day.
"I decided to make use of the cathedral's geometric shape because it has been etched in the memories of residents," Ban said.
The cardboard cathedral will retain a triangular shape on the front and back, although it will be without a tower. It will be about 24 meters high, almost the same height as the previous one.
Ban uses 86 cardboard tubes measuring 17 meters and weighing about 500 kilograms each to form a triangle shape like a tent. The cardboard structure is strong enough to clear local construction standards, according to Ban.
The finished structure will hold 700 people and is expected to be used as a venue for concerts and other events. All the materials to be used will come from New Zealand.
Staff at the cathedral hope to one day fully restore the building to its original state, but no firm plans have yet been drawn up.
Expressing high expectations for Ban's work, cathedral dean Peter Beck, 63, said the tent-shaped building will inspire confidence in the future as a symbol of hope.