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Possible solution for a quake-ravaged cathedral

Possible solution for a quake-ravaged cathedral

Diocese of Christchurch Bishop Victoria Matthews has encouraged her diocese to consider a design by New Zealand architect Sir Miles Warren to rebuild the diocesan cathedral in the city’s Cathedral Square.


Matthews has drawn the attention of her diocese to the lead story in the March 18 edition of The Press newspaper, which confirms that the Diocese of Christchurch has been talking again with Warren about his restoration scheme, as a way of breaking the four-year legal deadlock over the future of the ruined cathedral….

…In May 2013, Warren had said that one of the “valid criticisms” of the ruined stone cathedral was that the congregation in the side aisles “was visually and acoustically separated from the nave by large, closely-spaced stone columns and arches.”

Matthews pointed out that the sight-lines in the cathedral envisaged Warren would be much better – because the stone columns would be replaced by fewer slender wooden columns – and the floor would be on one level.

“The ability to re-arrange the chairs in the Transitional Cathedral,” she wrote this morning “has convinced us that multiple seating options are essential for new builds and re-builds…  It is also worth noting that (by) using new materials, the weight of the Cathedral would be less than a tenth of what the Cathedral in the Square weighed.”

Ironically, Warren’s vision for the cathedral is to rebuild as it was supposed to be, but never was.

When he was commissioned to design the cathedral in 1858, George Gilbert Scott had proposed that it should be built in wood – as  Auckland’s St Mary’s pro-cathedral and Wellington’s Old St Paul’s were.

Posted by Andrew Gerns


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Bro David

Paul, I would submit it is none of those things, you appear to miss the proposal. It is not to replicate the old Cathedral in stone. Sir Miles Warren is proposing a timber structure, designed to be earthquake resistant in the style of the former building. More importantly, although the diocese would like to go with a new modern design, the residents of the city feel otherwise. They have even been willing to take how they feel to court. This building has stood at the heart of this city for over 100 years and is the iconic representation of Christchurch, even to non-Anglicans citizens.

I think it would be similar for other iconic structures; St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City and the LDS Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City. The respective churches would be hard pressed not to erect something closely reminiscent to those historic buildings, were they destroyed in some cataclysm.

Randall Stewart

Once the challenges of designing any large structure in this area are overcome, the next question is “how does the space promote worship and liturgy?” This is one model for that and there is nothing inherently wrong with it. Speaking as someone who often prefers the secluded spaces of Gothic and Gothic revival buildings, I don’t understand why it must be the only model.

I will say that architecturally speaking, I have been impressed by the temporary cathedral, though I am not sure I would want to attend there regularly.

Paul Woodrum

Replicating a faux Victorian faux gothic stone building in an earthquake zone is theologically, liturgically, architecturally, geographically and culturally ridiculous. Certainly even New Zealand must have a native architectural tradition that could be interpreted in a modern form that indicates some acquaintance with the liturgical movement’s insight that liturgy should be less performance and more participation.

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