New Zealand: Three cathedral options unveiled for Christchurch

By Lloyd Ashton
Posted Apr 4, 2013

[Anglican Taonga] Cantabrians have this morning glimpsed what shape a new Cathedral in the Square could take.

Three design options have been unveiled – restored, traditional and contemporary – and over the next month the Diocese of Christchurch and the Church Property Trustees will take those options to the public.

They’ll explain the pros and cons of each at a number of presentations and public forums during April. And they will actively seek feedback from the public about those three choices.

The diocese has set up a website: for that express purpose. This site, which features detailed info on each option and solicits feedback, will be live until May 3.

At that point the Cathedral Property Group will collate and review that feedback – and feed that summarized info to the Church Property Trustees, which will select a preferred option.

Those three options are:

Restored – a back-to-foundations restoration of the iconic cathedral, but seismically strengthened. Quantity surveyors estimate this would cost a minimum of $104 million and up to $221 million, depending on how many years are needed to raise the money.

If everything went to plan, restoring the building would take 6.5 years. But if fundraising is slow, the quantity surveyors suggest it could take more than 20 years to complete.

Christchurch Cathedral restored

Christchurch Cathedral restored

Traditional – this option  acknowledges the Gothic Revival form of the old cathedral, but veers away from heavy masonry and slate in favor of lightweight materials. It would be clad in lightweight glass reinforced concrete, with a laminated timber interior and a copper-over-ply roof.

This option would feature a belltower – but in its upper reaches, this tower would be filigreed.

Quantity surveyors estimate the traditional model cathedral would cost between $85 million and $181 million, and would take between five and 22 years to finish, again depending on how quickly money can be raised.

Christchurch Cathedral traditional

Christchurch Cathedral traditional

Contemporary – the modern option still acknowledges the past, with its central axis aligned along Worcester St, and the “praying hands” curved roof, recalling the vertical forms and pointed arches of Gothic Revival architecture.

This option would feature a restored rose window on the western glass wall, and a glass and steel belltower. It has been estimated at $56 million to $74 million and, depending on the time needed to raise funds, it could take between 4.5 and 9.5 years to build.

Christchurch Cathedral contemporary

Christchurch Cathedral contemporary

The three options were outlined yesterday to the Chapter of ChristChurch Cathedral, and then again to a combined meeting of the Cathedral Property Group, the Church Property Trustees and the Diocesan Standing Committee.

Consulting engineer Marcus Read launched the presentation to the Chapter, and said he was “really excited to be able to show the public that the last 18 months work has got us somewhere – other than to court.

“We are hoping this project will inspire the city to look to the future.”

Bishop Victoria began the second presentation by quoting from 2nd Chronicles, where King Solomon dedicates the temple he had built:

18  ‘But will God indeed reside with mortals on earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built! 19  Have regard to your servant’s prayer and his plea, O Lord  my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you. 20  May your eyes be open day and night towards this house, the place where you promised to set your name, and may you heed the prayer that your servant prays towards this place.

Yesterday’s presentations were not without humor. One of the Standing Committee members declared his “reassurance” that each of the three options would include a restored rose window, and material and artifacts salvaged from the ruined cathedral.

To which Bishop Victoria quipped: “To the best of our knowledge, the effigy of Bishop Harper is just fine.”

The options will be outlined to a media conference today, then on Monday eight information stands will be erected around the city and 15,000 postcards outlining the options will be distributed.

On Wednesday evening, April 10, the first public forum will be held at the Westpac Business and Community Hub in Christchurch, and on the following Saturday the options will again be described to the Christchurch Diocesan Synod.

The roadshow heads to Auckland on Tuesday, April 16; at the invitation of Catholic Archbishop John Dew, Bishop Victoria Matthews will explain the options to the Catholic Bishops. And she’ll also take part in a lunchtime forum at Parnell’s Holy Trinity Cathedral.

There’ll be a presentation by the Church Property Trustees to the Christchurch City Council’s Earthquake Forum on Thursday April 18, and another public forum on April 24 at the Westpac Business and Community Hub.

Public feedback on the options will be collated and circulated to the Cathedral Project Group for review after May 3 – and thus equipped, the CPG, Church Property Trustees and the Diocesan Standing Committee will decide on their preferred option.

This option will then be outlined to the High Court, which will come to a decision on the case brought by the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust to stop deconstruction of the quake-damaged cathedral.

Today’s rollout of the three options is the latest stage in an process which has seen the formulation of design guidelines, and a functional brief, a study tour of selected overseas cathedrals, and the invitation for members of the diocese to take part via blog or email in “Cathedral Conversations.”


Comments (14)

  1. Les Singleton says:

    I would think the traditional design with modern materials would be the best solution.
    Today’s contemporary is tomorrow’s dated; and why use material that is not earthquake safe?

  2. John Barton says:

    I congratulate all involved for giving Cantabrians three interesting architectural choices from which to choose, and for allowing us in the rest of the world also to see drawings of each of them. It will be interesting to see which one they choose to build, and how the Holy Spirit works among them in their deliberations. May they have all the blessings they want, and abundantly so. Amen.

  3. David Krohne says:

    I’d be inclined to vote for Option B. The “contemporary” option has about as much charm as what passes for so-called “contemporary” church music today and would look dated and hackneyed by the time it was completed.

  4. Alan Ogden says:

    I would favor the contemporary design. Gothic was contemporary way many years ago. Gods creation moves forward, not backward. Contemporary designs favor function and that is what is needed and a break with tradition if what happened when an act of God destroyed the old forms.

    “Behold, I make all things new”

  5. Judith Palmer says:

    I am in my seventy’s and love the contemporary option not just for the idea that I should still be alive when it is finished and that it is the cheapest option but to me it is an exciting concept and I hope it is the one that is chosen.

  6. Rosemary Edward says:

    I attended services for several years in the Cathedral so love that building but think that to repair it would be too costly and take too long, I like the second option because it resembles the old and will be cheaper to build. I don’t care for the third option it doesn’t give the impression of looking very permanent

  7. Angela Macfarlane says:

    My preferance is for the contempory cathedral as it strongly suggests Growing forward into the future
    I would prefer a huge contempory cross at the eastern end rather than the rather catholic depictiun of mother and child currently featured.
    Also the rose window appears to be disected by a metal bar in the outside window, rathert than being made more of a feature of the west end, like as in our dear old ruined cathedral.

  8. Gordon & Elizabeth Handley-Packham says:

    We are members of the Cathedral community and have given its replacement a considerable amount of thought and discussed it with friends. We consider that the best option is the third one ‘Contemporary’ despite our love for the original traditional building design. We have come to this conclusion based on the thought that it is planned to have modern buildings in the square area so a traditional Gothic design would not, in our opinion ‘fit in’. Also the building must be designed for the younger generation, not us ‘oldies’.

  9. ross edward ward says:

    I vote for TRADITIONAL

  10. Pamela Cobb says:

    I vote for the TRADITIONAL!

    1. Pamela Cobb says:

      Oops! I vote for restored, not traditional!

  11. Robert Alder R.I.B.A says:

    As a resident of the UK I have had the privilege of visiting your beautiful country . As an Architect I was devastated to see the effects of the earthquake on the City of Christchurch and the Cathedral itself , which we visited before the quake . The proposal for a modern cathedral must be the most favourable option , a truly lovely concept and one which I would have been proud to have been involved . You must take the opportunity and grasp the metal . Inspired but restrained , as a defiance of whatever Nature can produce . I am truly envious of the Artists /Architects who had the vision . I Sincerely hope that I will have the opportunity to visit again to see the Design completed .

  12. John Bunyan says:

    I vote for traditional. Other places have raised great sums of money in recent times for their cathedrals, Brisbane Cathedral here in Australia a notable example though admittedly, like Washington or Liverpool, the early stages were slow. Are there not major benefactors in New Zealand and beyond. The sums are not enormous when one sees what is spent to build houses etc etc – or spent (here in Australia at least) on armaments.

  13. neville sutherland says:

    I would echo the words and sentiments expressed by Robert Alder R.I.B.A. in his July 16, 2013 entry. I lived 12 years in Christchurch in the 1970’s and the Cathedral was an ever present reminder of an enduring relationship, however barely acknowledged, with my christian upbringing. I shed a tear when first confronted with the obscene sight of the shattered tower and prayed that the building would be restored anew. But times change and so has my view of the Cathedral. The city is metamorphosing into a new Christchurch and what better way to exemplify that than the new “contemporary” design. All strength Bishop Matthews to your achieving this soaring, beautiful vision!

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