Early on the morning of September 4, 2010, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the South Island of New Zealand causing widespread damage. This was followed by a 6.3 magnitude quake on February 22, 2011 that was much shallower and devastated the city of Christchurch – NZ's second-largest city - resulting in the loss of 185 lives. Among a considerable number of building collapses was the historic Anglican Cathedral, which sustained sufficient damage that it had to be demolished. Work has now begun on a temporary cathedral, intended to serve the needs of the community until sufficient funds are acquired to build a permanent replacement. Oddly, the architects decided to make the replacement of cardboard!

The damage to the cathedral was great, with near-total collapse of the spire, and damage to the facade and structural framework. As sufficient funds for replacement were not forthcoming, the Diocese initiated design studies for an inexpensive replacement cathedral to serve the needs of the Anglican community until a permanent replacement could be constructed.

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban returned with the donation of a design for a soaring meeting space constructed of cardboard and shipping containers. Ban is renowned in architecture for his remarkable paper tube structures and buildings. He previously donated a design for a Japanese church destroyed by the Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995. That church building is still in use, and was even moved to a new location and reconsecrated in 2006 to replace another earthquake-damaged church.

The cardboard cathedral is expected to cost roughly NZ$4 million (about US$3.8 million), compared to an estimated NZ$25M (US$20.5M) for a permanent replacement.

Sources: Christchurch Cathedral, Anglican Taonga

Update: A number of readers have alerted us to the fact that it was the February 2011 earthquake and not the September 2010 quake as originally stated in the article that was responsible for bringing down the majority of buildings, including the Anglican Cathedral. We've now updated the story to reflect this. Thanks for all those that pointed this out.