How lucky I am! In October 2005, I spent a sunny afternoon photographing in Cathedral Square, Christchurch. The Cathedral is at the very centre of the city. Columbo St, the main street, runs north/south through the city, and deviates at the city centre to accommodate the iconic Cathedral. The cornerstone was laid in 1864, building being completed by 1904. The spire rose to 63m (207ft). I have been in the Cathedral many times, including a spiral staircase climb up the tower. The Square was often filled with lots of entertainment, including stalls, buskers, chess players and the famous Wizard of Christchurch, who would show off his public speaking skills.
But on 22nd February 2011, a 6.3 earthquake changed the city centre landscape, including the Cathedral. The spire was completely destroyed, leaving the lower half of the tower standing. The walls and roof were mostly intact, but other sections collapsed. Inspections showed that the pillars supporting the building were severely damaged. Initially 20 people were thought to be in the building, but searches showed no one had died in the Cathedral, although 181 people perished elsewhere in the city.
In June 2011 another 6.3 earthquake further damaged the Cathedral. The rose window of the west wall collapsed. The question now is should it be deconsecrated and demolished.
The central city has been “red zoned” (not accessible to the public) since February, this includes The Strip. Pictures of the devastation are our only link until all the unsafe high- rise buildings are demolished.
The Christchurch City Council is investigating options to replace the Cathedral. One possible solution to a cathedral-less city is a cardboard cathedral! Designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who has designed and built homes, schools, shelters and cathedrals in other disaster zones, it could be built in three months. It is constructed with cardboard tubes, and promises to be strong and waterproof. It would hold 700 people. One church that he designed for Kobe after the 1995 earthquake is still in use, though it has been relocated to Taiwan.
“If you love the building, it is permanent, if not, it is temporary”- Shigeru Ban