tech building construction energy_efficient_design design architecture earthquakes structure natural_disaster

Paper Becomes a Rock

by Michael Keller

A transitional cathedral being erected in Christchurch, New Zealand, after the original was severely damaged by the February 2011 earthquake is nearing completion. How could the building, whose foundation was only begun in July 2012 and whose peak now reaches six stories into the air, have gone up so quickly?

Take a look at the main supports for the A-frame structure’s roof—they’re cardboard tubes that measure more than 65 feet long and almost two feet in diameter. Ninety-eight of the tubes combine with timber beams, structural steel and concrete to create a building that is expected to last for 50 years. A polycarbonate roof keeps the paper from getting soggy.

Christchurch’s Cardboard Cathedral is the brainchild of Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who has contributed his abilities at no cost to quickly build a symbol of the city’s renewal.

When it’s done, the venue, which is being built to stringent earthquake codes, will seat 700 and provide space for concerts, exhibits and community events.

“The strength of the building has nothing to do with the strength of the material,” says Shigeru Ban. “Even concrete buildings can be destroyed by earthquakes very easily. But paper buildings cannot be destroyed by earthquakes.”

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