Gothic vision for Christchurch Cathedral?


Sir Miles Warren’s vision for Christchurch Cathedral is to rebuild it as it was supposed to be, but never was.

The renowned Christchurch architect has revealed his design for the earthquake-damaged church, including the all-wooden interior of the original design by 19th century architect George Gilbert Scott.

Warren suggests rebuilding in wood using 21st century technology to create an elegant and spacious contemporary Gothic interior.

Scott’s design was vetoed by church authorities, who demanded that the entire building be in stone.

The cathedral’s external walls would be rebuilt and earthquake strengthened in stone, and the existing slate-tile roof would be replaced by copper.

The entire project, excluding the cost of deconstructing the existing building, is estimated to cost $18 million.

‘‘If Scott’s interior structure had been built it would probably be standing today – as does St Michael and All Angels and the wooden columns and roof of KnoxChurch,’’ Warren said.

‘‘It’s now time to return to the cathedral’s first design. Rebuild and earthquake-strengthen most of the exterior walls, including the whole of the iconic west front.’’

The new interior would be more spacious, he said.

‘‘One of the valid criticisms of the 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.’’

The plan sees the interior walls plastered in an Oamaru-stonetextured finish, stained-glass windows reinstated and the rose window in the west front replaced.

A copper roof would reduce the load on the building.

In Warren’s proposal, the existing building would be gradually deconstructed from the roof downwards to windowsill level in the side aisles.

Reinforced concrete walls would then be bonded to the rebuilt external walls by drilling and inserting steel rods.

Warren said the cathedral’s tower and spire – a city landmark for more than 100 years – could be rebuilt. ‘‘The land on which it stands could be purchased by the city council who would then organise an international design competition for a new tower. The successful design would become an earthquake memorial.’’

‘‘The wooden interior would salute a great New Zealand tradition of wooden Gothic, exemplified by Auckland’s St Mary’s pro-cathedral and Wellington’s Old St Paul’s.

This spirit would be continued by Christchurch engineers and the University of Canterbury, both leaders in these design techniques.’’


  • The Press
  • Christopher Moore

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