Cardboard Cathedral

Marvel at this modern symbol of resilience, admire its innovative design or get in touch with your spiritual side in Christchurch’s unique house of worship.

In the aftermath of the devastating 2011 earthquake, the Cardboard Cathedral rose from Christchurch’s crumbling center as a symbol of resilience and optimism. Officially named the Transition Cathedral, this “pop-up church” provides a temporary replacement for the ruined Christchurch Cathedral. Visit this truly unique house of worship to see how it was made or come here to attend a community event.

Upon reaching the Cardboard Cathedral, stand back to admire its scale and beauty. Building of the Cardboard Cathedral commenced in July 2012 and was completed just over a year later. The design is by Shigeru Ban, who specializes in working with recycled paper. The award-winning Japanese architect has come up with innovative ways to create emergency shelters in disaster areas in a very short time frame.

Step inside to see how the 96 strong cardboard tubes, which measure 24 inches (60 centimeters) in diameter, make up the A-frame structure of the interior. It’s hard to imagine when you see the well-designed nave, but eight shipping containers form the base of this church. Remarkably so, the temporary structure is able to withstand strong earthquakes and has a lifespan of half a century.

The temporary cathedral rises to 79 feet (24 meters) in height and can seat up to 700 worshippers. Take a seat yourself and soak up the cathedral’s atmosphere. The light shining through the massive colored triangular window and its organic design seem to imbue the building with a gentle, inviting quality.

You can also visit the cathedral during Mass or for an event, such as a concert or a community gathering. Before you leave, pop into the on-site shop to pick up special souvenirs, from Christmas tree decorations to books about the design of the cathedral.

The Cardboard Cathedral, at the southern end of Latimer Square, is open daily and free to enter. Latimer Square is just a 10-minute walk from the center of Christchurch. There is on-street parking nearby. You can check the cathedral’s event calendar on its official website.

In August 2017 the Anglican Church finally voted in favor of the restoration of the original Christchurch Cathedral. What this decision means for the future of the Cardboard Cathedral is uncertain, so visit while you still can.