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Brief Published: 24 Apr 2012

New Zealand’s Cardboard Cathedral


The design of the Transitional Cathedral, created by internationally acclaimed Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, sees the ultra-humble material cardboard transformed into a sustainable spiritual haven. The space will temporarily replace an Anglican church in the New Zealand city of Christchurch that was destroyed by an earthquake in 2011.

With insufficient funds to replace the building permanently, the Diocese initiated a mission to develop an inexpensive temporary worship space for the local community, before the final structure could be replaced. Somewhat miraculously, the call was heard by Ban, who gifted the design plans (and also waived his design fee) to create a simple meeting space with soaring ceilings, constructed from cardboard and shipping containers.

Accommodating up to 700 people, it will serve not only as a church, but also a venue for exhibitions, concerts and events. Due for completion in December 2012, the cardboard cathedral is expected to cost approximately $3.8m, (£2.35m) compared to an estimated $20.5m (£12.7m) for a permanent replacement.

For a deeper exploration into spiritual refuges, and the rise in spatial design imbued with wider meaning, see Stylus’ report, Spiritual Spaces: The Architecture of Happiness.

Christchurch Cathedral