Christchurch cathedral rebuilding on-track

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After two years of work on stabilising its historic church buildings through 2021, Christchurch Cathedral Reinstatement Limited have now applied to Christchurch City Council for building consent for the main cathedral reinstatement and tower on the next stages of its Cathedral Quarter plan.

Over most of last year, project staff, consultants and contractors have been completing the detailed design while working to establish and carry out the most effective methods of securing the historic Cathedral’s remaining structures and working out how to attach them to the new vestries, new porch and new tower. 

“It’s not often in the world that an earthquake-damaged stone building of this nature has been attempted to be repaired as well as being base-isolated.” said structural engineer and CCRL Director Helen Trappitt. 

“So there’s nothing you can learn from a textbook, or from the Italians, or anyone else about doing this work on this particular sort of construction. It is great to see our teams are working out a lot as they go.” 

The team collaborating on how to solve those complicated structural challenges brings together architects, engineers, construction experts, landscape designers, and even acoustic engineers, and pipe organ and bell specialists.

Helen Trappitt explained that installing base isolation in the foundations of the Cathedral, while difficult to retrofit, will reduce the impact of ground shake ‘accelerations’ on the building during an earthquake – down to a third. That in turn brings down the bracing needs required to keep the historic building safe. 

The project team includes Christchurch architectural firm Warren and Mahoney who have their eye on everything from ensuring practical needs for strength and resilience, to matching the contemporary builds’ best visual fit with the heritage buildings. 

CCRL Project Director Keith Paterson explained that historic-contemporary fit is proving quite a challenge. 

“Some of the repair learnings are getting quite technical, especially connecting modern, straight steel frames to an old precious heritage building – some of these things are taking a bit more time than we thought.”  

Later this year, as strengthening work proceeds on the heritage building, Warren and Mahoney will turn their focus to designing the new Cathedral Centre and Visitors’ Centre in detail.  

Bishop of Christchurch, the Rt Rev Peter Carrell is excited with how the project is moving foward, and especially about the future ministry the Cathedral Centre to the reinstated Cathedral will support in the Square. 

“The Visitor’s Centre on the northern side will deepen the experience of visitors to our Cathedral compared to what we were able to offer. And the Cathedral Centre on the southern side will enhance our ability to gather people together for hospitality after services and for education and training events.” 

The Cathedral Centre will house modern conference and hospitality facilities and offices for Cathedral staff. Bishop Peter can see that the expanded facilities in the Cathedral Quarter will extend how the church can minister to and within the inner city. 

“With these two buildings there are immense missional opportunities as we connect with locals, and national and international visitors to the Cathedral quarter. 

We are looking forward to new ways to meet together, share faith, and break bread together in these exciting purpose-built spaces for mission and ministry.”

The Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement project is on track to complete the Cathedral Quarter development in mid to late 2027.