A Permanent Memorial and a Temporary Cathedral



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Some friends were asking about my New Zealand trip and what I had written earlier about the Christchurch earthquake. When I mentioned the “Cardboard Cathedral”, they wanted to know more. This temporary Cathedral building is on the site of Christchurch’s oldest Anglican Church, demolished after the earthquake. It replaced the original Christchurch Cathedral, still standing a few blocks away but awaiting demolition, too damaged by a whole series of earthquakes since 1864. Here is a link to more information. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardboard_Cathedra


Just across the road however, is a permanent open space where before Tuesday, 22 February 2011 stood the 7 story Canterbury TV building. In the less than 30 seconds nothing was standing except the wall with the lift shaft and 115 people, half the casualties of the city on the earthquake. Unlike most Christchurch building which were damages, like the 2 Cathedrals, t was relatively modern (1986) but an enquiry found it’s design deficient, it’s engineer inexperienced and under supervised and it should never have been approved causing it to collapse like pack of cards and catch fire. Amongst the dead were 70 foreign ESL students

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The NZ Government have acquired the site and set it aside as a permanent memorial to all the earthquake victims .

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Now to the temporary Cathedral. The renowned “catastrophe architect” Shuzeru Ban offered his services pro bono to plan and produce this as the first significant building erected after the earthquake – opened on 6 Aug 2013

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This A Frame Structure is made of 86 Cardboard tubes each weighing 500 kg, all supported on 8 six metre containers, which make up the walls

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This inside view shows the exposed ceiling structure of tubes. The Building is designed to be a performance space as well as church.

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The cardboard tube theme continues in the furnishings

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From Wikipedia “It rises 21 metres (69 ft) above the altar. Materials used include 60-centimetre (24 in)-diameter cardboard tubes, timber and steel.[16] The roof is of polycarbon,[11] with eight shipping containers forming the walls. The foundation is concrete slab. The architect wanted the cardboard tubes to be the structural elements, but local manufacturers could not produce tubes thick enough and importing the cardboard was rejected.[12] The 96 tubes, reinforced with laminated wood beams, are “coated with waterproof polyurethane and flame retardants” with two-inch gaps between them so that light can filter inside. Instead of a replacement rose window, the building has triangular pieces of stained glass.[17] The building serves as a conference venue as well as a cathedral.[4]“”

There has been a lot of controversy over this building. Partly the cost of about NZ$6,000,000 for a building with an expiry date of 35 years – the estimated time before the cardboard loses strength through water absorption. The other complication regards the question of whether to repair or replace Christchurch’s original Cathedral as the permanent city Anglican cathedral. The original dates from 1864 so has tremendous heritage value but is believed to be damaged beyond safe, economical limits to repair. This kind of question is still being asked about many buildings in the city of Christchurch, yet to be demolished in the hope that they can be restored.


Caravanning in Western NSW

In October 2014 we travelled in our caravan from Sydney to Adelaide via the southern route through the Riverina and then back through Broken Hill. For my overseas readers thats a distance of over 3000 kilometres in three weeks. That central part of Australia is very hot, dry and desolate. During our 8 day trip through from Broken Hil through to Young the temperature each day ranged from a “cool” 36 degrees C to a “warmish” 41!

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Nine km from the city of Broken Hill amongst the Barrier Ranges is The Living Desert Reserve. A sculpture symposium was held on this hilltop in 1993 by artists from around the world, who produced 12 sandstone sculptures highlight the skyline, all with a story to tell. This was one.

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We stayed outside Broken Hill in the abandoned mining town of Silverton. Nearly a century after mining finished it is now a tourist attraction and a very popular movie set , best known for “Mad Max” and a multitude of commercials.

The photograph here is from the unique memorial outside a graveyard mainly featuring ancient headstones. The three turrets are formed from the broken heads of miners pickaxes. One side of the memorial members the miners who left the district to join the Army in WW1 100 years ago. The reverse side, facing the graves remembers the miners who died in the terrible working conditions where accidents were common and lung damage normal.


The Header for my blog is a shot from the Menindee lakes, an artificial water storage build to supply the needs of Broken Hill. The Darling River would normally run dry in summer without the dams to contain the lakes and channels.

The Emu was a visitor while we were setting up our caravan. I imagine he(?) was hand reared because he followed me around while I photographed and even lay down at my feet like a dog while I read my book in a chair under the annex. I called him Willy.