Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dialectical Architecture: The Cardboard Cathedral as a Synthesis of Past and Future, of Loss and Gain

While much of the attention over the Cardboard Cathedral (a temporary cathedral designed by Shigeru Ban to commemorate the victims of the earthquake that struck Christchurch in 2011) has been on its innovative use of cardboard to address seismic dangers, I cannot help but think that this architectural phenom is the perfect performative of the opening lines from D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover:
Image Courtesy of Jocelyn Kinghorn

Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We've got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.

The devastating earthquake that struck Christchurch in 2011 took 185 lives and destroyed the city’s iconic Anglican cathedral (originally built in 1864). A mere two years after this tragedy, the Cardboard Cathedral is erected – with an innovative seismic solution. With an A-frame structure, constructed out of 98 24” cardboard tubes, each water- and fire-proofed, the new cardboard cathedral is a paper building that can withstand earthquakes. Shigeru Ban states, “Even concrete buildings can be destroyed by earthquakes very easily, but paper buildings cannot.”

But the Cardboard Cathedral is not just about withstanding future earthquakes. It is about the past.  Rather, it is about using innovation to preserve, enhance, and emphasize the past. A mosaic of colorful triangular glass from the original cathedral (from 1864!) dons the facade of the new cathedral. This is a tribute that recognizes human impermanence through its own impermanence. This is a tribute that simultaneously recognizes human fragility and celebrates human resilience.  

- Karen Huang

About the Author:
Karen Huang, SideMark Graphic Designer, specializes in art direction and implementation of all marketing (and some non-marketing) collateral. She took a tortuous route to graphic design, after realizing that she needed to care more than how a building looked to be a licensed architect (at least in California) and that she was too old to spend six years in a Ph.D. program to become an English professor. She brings her architectural aesthetic and knowledge of Aristotle, Plato, Marx, and Foucault to any design endeavor. Karen holds a B.A. in Architecture and a B.A. in Rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley, and a M.A. in Rhetoric from Carnegie Mellon University. To contact Karen, email her at karen_huang@sidemark.com.

1 comment:

  1. An inspiring notion, creating a thing of beauty and permanence from something inherently transient. thanks.