|(The Christchurch Press)|
I freely admit that I have no idea what on earth a cardboard cathedral is or will be, but am assured by news reports that it is considerably more permanent than it sounds.
In fact, far from a few packing boxes stacked on top of each other, this will be a $5.3 million work that, if the roof is maintained, could last for up to 50 years. It should be completed by the end of the year, one benefit of building with cardboard, I suppose.
It will be erected just opposite the CTV building which collapsed in the Feb. 22 earthquake, claiming 125 souls. The iconic Christ Church Cathedral, declared too dangerous and beyond saving, is in the process of being taken down.
Easy as it would be to sneer at something billed as a cardboard cathedral, this is a good and meaningful turning point. Christchurch, particularly its Central Business District, is being systematically dismantled. Little of any meaning remains. The reconstruction of the new Christchurch has not begun in any meaningful way. The lack of rental facilities has Cantabrians renting out and living in garages, if not their cars.
The last time I was in Christchurch, the absence of any forward progress was not only heartbreaking, but really beginning to wear on the locals who felt trapped in some sort of awful Groundhog Day limbo where every large aftershock further complicated already labyrinthine insurance company quandaries.
So this new temporary cathedral will be not only a spiritual reconnection with the up high but also an important step forward for humankind in the face of continuing assault from below.
It is a step forward for a city that has lost so much.
The cardboard cathedral - slated to be only a temporary replacement while the new Christ Church Cathedral is constructed will be able to hold 700 people. The cardboard structure will become St. Johns - also lost to the February quake - once the new cathedral is complete. It was designed - for free - by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, said to be an expert at emergency replacement construction.
According to the Christchurch Press, "the innovative structure will comprise cardboard tubes, timber beams and structural steel." It is designed for more permanence than "cardboard cathedral" seems to indicate, will be structurally able to withstand earthquakes and should be a feature of the new Christchurch for decades to come.
For a stressed-out citizenry that has been battered for more than a year, that is dealing with a chronic housing and entertainment shortage, that is wrestling with stalled insurance claims, that has seen so little progress and done so much hanging on, this is something to raise a brief cheer for. So much more is needed, of course, but something finally is going up, rather than being knocked down.