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Mayor's plan workable - experts

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 22/01/2013

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An ambitious plan to encase the Christ Church Cathedral ruins in glass is complex but achievable, experts say.

Mayor Bob Parker yesterday released his vision for the earthquake-damaged landmark, which included retaining as much of the cathedral's walls as possible, a rebuilt spire and a large glass encasement.

More than 70 per cent of the 1500-plus votes on a press.co.nz poll favoured the design and it received technical backing from engineers and architects.

Architect Jasper van der Lingen, of Sheppard & Rout, said the idea was "worth exploring" but the "devil is very much in the detail".

"It's a lovely idea, but how you make it a reality is the challenge. It would need a very skilful designer to do something very beautiful," he said.

"We've got to be conscious we're in an earthquake zone, so inevitably it'll need quite a bit of structure. It's how you detail that to make it look elegant and minimal, and not clash with the historic fabric that's left of the stones."

Glass was not a concern because it could be designed to move and flex in a quake, van der Lingen said.

Stefano Pampanin, an associate professor in structural design and earthquake engineering at Canterbury University, said the design would be "very complex" and the glass would need structural support.

"The complexity will be from an architectural and heritage conservation point of view to integrate the old with the new, which is not easy at all. There is a complexity in doing it, but it doesn't mean it can't be done," he said.

The Anglican Diocese declined to comment yesterday, citing the High Court challenge by the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust.

Buildings Trust co-chairman Philip Burdon said Parker's idea was "straight out of Hollywood".

"Bob is welcome to his own fantasies and good luck to him. Certainly, he won't be getting my support," he said.

Parker said yesterday he was pleased the concept had found support.

The plan was about "looking forward" and the cathedral site was important because it would become a symbol for the city, he said.

"If it's had a positive reaction, that's really great. Let's hope the cathedral reimagining team actually take it on board," Parker said.

"I think it really does show that people are really open to the idea of something more innovative than perhaps just a recreation of what was there before."

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- The Press

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