A community still trying to recover from a 2011 earthquake dedicated on Thursday a cardboard cathedral that cost $6 million to construct.
The cathedral, made from more than 90 24-inch cardboard tubes coated in waterproof polyurethane and protected by a polycarbonate roof, will be used as a temporary place of worship for more than a decade as a new cathedral is built in Christchurch, New Zealand.
A 6.3 magnitude quake hit Christchurch, New Zealand’s second-largest city, on Feb. 22, 2011, killing 185 people and flattening much of the city’s downtown, including a cathedral that dated to 1864.
The transitional cathedral includes a mosaic of triangle-shaped colored glass that features images from the original cathedral’s facade.
The cathedral is the first substantial “rebuild” after the earthquake, according to the Christchurch Transitional Cathedral’s website.
“The world is watching and willing us on as we slowly but surely rebuild lives and structures,” the site said. “The Cardboard Cathedral is a vital element in this process of rebirth and recovery.”
Shigeru ban, the cathedral’s designer, has addressed concerns that they cardboard would not hold up in inclement weather.
“The strength of the building has nothing to do with the strength of the material,” he said. “Even concrete buildings can be destroyed by earthquakes very easily. But paper buildings cannot be destroyed by earthquakes.”
Acting dean Lynda Patterson said in a newsletter this week that two things have heartened her in watching people’s response to the “wonderful, whimsical cathedral.”
“One man at the opening concert in the Joyfully Unmunted series came up to me afterward and said with enthusiasm, ‘I’ve been an Anglican for 75 years and this is the first time I’ve been warm enough to take my coat off in church,’” she said. “Another said as he was departing. ‘The sound is wonderful. Much better than I expected from a large cardboard Toblerone.’”
Patterson said despite the positive attention the cathedral has received, she hopes her congregation can work to become known for more than a unique house of worship.
“We’re still enjoying being in a new home, but ultimately the thing about home isn’t where the light switches are or that new smell of glue and fresh paint,” she said. “It’s what you can do there, and who you can welcome, and how you can show hospitality and the transforming love of God.”
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