Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cardboard architecture

This past weekend while reading the Wall Street Journal Magazine (Nov 2013) I noticed a short article on the demise of Gilbert Scott's neo-gothic Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand which had been decimated by many recent earthquakes.  The replacement (which the article failed to mention was temporary) was designed by architect Shigeru Ban completely out of cardboard! Ban, who has donated his services on similar churches throughout areas of the Eastern Hemisphere which faced similar acts of God, expects the cardboard cathedral to last 50 years if needed.
Above you can see Scott's stone ChristChurch Cathedral from 1904 before the damage and below the devastation numerous earthquakes in recent years had wrought.  The decision phase has been hard on the church as they decide whether or not to rebuild or if the damaged building was salvageable; turns out that sadly the existing church could not be saved. The city and preservationists were also involved as the Cathedral is a local landmark and a category #1 historic place ranking within New Zealand.
When I first read the article I was outraged at the current state of the architectural profession that a 50 year life expectancy was deemed an adequate replacement for such a structure - or in fact any structure. We talk so much about being 'green' but replacing buildings every 20-50 years is the anti-thesis to green. Buildings in Europe are in use that are a thousand years old which is a whole lot more 'green' than a lot of current building practices.....but that's a topic for another blog post. I was wrong in fact and the cardboard Cathedral is a temporary structure; crisis adverted.
Can you imagine such a tragedy to your own church or landmark? So sad.
Ban's design was a simple A-frame structure of huge cardboard tubes covered with a clear polycarbonate roof to keep off the weather. The ends are then infilled with stained glass with super-imposed photo images from the old Cathedral (see last few images). 
Above you can see the structure getting erected a few blocks away from the old Cathedral while it continues to be demolished and the site prepared for rebuilding.
The finished project is a beautiful example of modern ecclesiastic architecture in my opinion, and you know I'm primarily a classicist!
The finished space holds 700 parishioners.  I love that it includes something of the old Cathedral (the stained glass images) while leading the way for the congregation to the future and their rebuilding; hopefully a structurally sound replica of the old Cathedral.
What do you think of the temporary replacement and cardboard buildings in general? Could you worship here?
Images sourced from various news sources and not my own.


Mark D. Ruffner said...

Absolutely! What an inspiring story, and what a novel idea for the short term. (And I agree with you about the dismaying tendency for buildings to be replaced so quickly. Here in St. Petersburg, we have a pier that has been a prime tourist attraction, but is now being torn down. It was built in the 1970s!)

Anonymous said...

Absolutely I could worship there.

As a temporary structure as in the case of disaster, this would work. In the South where we have heavy rainfall and tornadoes, not to mention hurricanes and the occasional ice storm and snowfall, I'm not sure it would even work temporarily. Still I am drawn to it. Not sure why. Maybe the clean lines. Or maybe the thought that like a dream, it will pass fleetingly.

Strongheart said...

It's a very nice building, but I do not understand why it is a triangle. Catholic churches have the traditional required shape of a Latin Cross and the nave pointing east so the rising sun shine on the altar. And there are steps to the altar to symbolize the spirit ascent to Christ. Such are some of the requirements for a Roman Catholic Church. Maybe it is not for a Catholic Church?

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Mark, is seems especially prevalent on the west coast and in the south -this 'temporary' mentality. The reason we don't have buildings like 100 years ago (which we all admire) is they were built to LAST while today everything is done as inexpensively and quickly as possible.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Strongheart -it was built this way for structural reasons and because of the limitations of the temporary materials used. It's an Anglican church -not roman catholic.

La Petite Gallery said...

Oh my Gosh! This is amazing. I like the new look, at least it doesn't look commercial like a cafeteria.
What has happened to this world.
I agree there are churches that last 500 years and 50 yrs sounds like bribes under the table.
Same thing with the roads in America, deals made for sloppy work. We spend more money repairing. No one gives their ALL anymore, it's as little as possible. They have no pride.
This was a great post.

deana sidney said...

You know, if we all disappear, our century will be remembered by plastic junk while ancient buildings remain.

It makes me sad. Pretty pathetic tombstone although I applaud the temporary fix –– like a sandpainting.

Nancy {at} powellbrower at home said...

Just got back from Italy where the structures are so well kept for being centuries old. A cardboard build is brilliant, and I could worship anywhere beauty lies, no matter the construction or no construction, like in nature. Have a great weekend Stephan!
xo Nancy

Lord Cowell said...

I have visited it a couple of times. The smell inside is something not easily forgotten, it has a strong smell of cardboard, which is almost a wood smell. Unfortunately they have voted not to create a replica of the stunning old cathedral, they are going to make a permanent modern building :-(

In someways it reminds me of that American Air Force cadet chapel, near Colorado Springs.

Divine Theatre said...

Have you seen what the DID to Soldier Field in Chicago?! Every time I pass by I cringe. It looks like an alien spaceship landed on top of the field!

This made me chuckle...