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Cardboard cathedral opens in quake-prone New Zealand city

The new cathedral was designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. "Even concrete buildings can be destroyed by earthquakes very easily, but paper buildings cannot," he said.
AP
The new cathedral was designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. "Even concrete buildings can be destroyed by earthquakes very easily, but paper buildings cannot," he said.

A $6 million cardboard cathedral was officially dedicated in New Zealand on Thursday, replacing the neo-Gothic structure destroyed in a 2011 earthquake that killed 185 people.

Made from nearly 100 24-inch cardboard tubes coated with waterproof polyurethane, the new building, in Christchurch, is expected to last for more than a decade while a permanent replacement is built.

It includes a mosaic of colored, triangular glass etched with images from the original cathedral's facade, which dates to 1864.

Acting dean Lynda Patterson told Agence France-Presse that the official opening of the innovative structure marked a major milestone in the city's recovery from the devastating 6.3-magnitude quake that leveled much of the downtown area.

"The old cathedral symbolized the city in many ways, and we think this cathedral is a symbol that Christchurch is regrouping and rebuilding," she told AFP.

"The community has a cathedral again. It's a place where people can come for quiet contemplation in the city center and somewhere we can hold concerts and art exhibitions."

Patterson described the building in her weekly diocese newsletter as "wonderful" and "whimsical."

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who has been developing the recycled tubes as an emergency-relief building material since 1986, told Architecture Daily that "the strength of the building has nothing to do with the strength of the material."

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"Even concrete buildings can be destroyed by earthquakes very easily, but paper buildings cannot," he said.

A court last month gave initial approval for demolition of the remains of the original cathedral to make way for a multimillion-dollar replacement, the New Zealand Herald reported.

—By Alastair Jamieson, NBC News