Mayor's vision: a cathedral in glass

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 21/01/2013
Cathedral Design
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An artist's impression of Mayor Bob Parker's idea for a glass encased Christ Church Cathedral.

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In one of the most ambitious Christ Church Cathedral concepts yet, Bob Parker is calling for the ruins to be encased in a "crystalline structure" to serve as a reminder of the past.

The Christchurch Mayor has waded into the debate over the fate of the cathedral, but he is armed with a bold vision.

He has suggested retaining as much of the cathedral's walls as possible, restoring the grand organ and pews, removing the cracked and weathered roof to expose the rafters and beams, and building a glass case over the ruins to open up the building to the stars.

The crystalline cloak would shield the cathedral from the elements but still allow churchgoers to worship and visitors to wander through the remains of the original building.

His plan has been pitched to Anglican leaders, but has yet to have a price tag.

Parker envisaged stained-glass windows suspended mid-air by wire, a glass structure being lit from the inside at night and a rebuilt spire shooting out of the encasement to become the tallest point in the city.

He found his inspiration in Norway's Hedmark Museum, which has a large glass encasement protecting the ruins of  Hamar Cathedral.

Parker said he had been chewing the idea over for about six months and wanted to unveil it publicly to get feedback from the community and generate discussion about the possibility.

He had raised his plan with several people, including Bishop Victoria Matthews, who "positively received" it.

The argument over the future of Christchurch's broken cathedral has polarised the community and wound up in a High Court battle, leaving the beloved building exposed to the elements for nearly two years.

Parker believed it was time to wind up the fight.

"I don't believe we should ever reconstruct and build the thing as it was. We should try to retain as much of the old, but not cover up what has happened here by rebuilding it to new," he said.

Within three generations, memories of the February 2011 earthquake would be scarce, and Parker suggested the city "send a message to the future".

"We cannot ever completely forget what happened here, nor should we. We need something to tell that story. We need to retain one structure that is a record of what took place, and I think the cathedral should be that project," he said.

Parker believed his vision could transform the wounded building into an "extraordinary tourist attraction".

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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