$6 million cardboard cathedral built to survive earthquakes

Credit: NBC News

When you were a child, chances are you had the opportunity to construct a fort out of cardboard boxes. It would stand as an impenetrable barrier for about an afternoon, housing all manner of imagined battles and diplomatic relations with those residing outside its walls. And then you'd accidentally lean on it and the whole thing would come apart.

Little did you know then that, with a little improvement, your forts could have become world-renowned feats of engineering. Case in point: this $6 million cathedral made of cardboard tubes. It was designed by architect Shigeru Ban, who has been a professional cardboard fort builder since at least 1986.

The structure, dubbed the Transitional Cathedral, is a replacement for another church lost in the massive earthquake that rocked Christchurch, NZ in 2011. Though it's made of softer stuff, the Transitional Cathedral is actually much more Earthquake safe than its predecessor. Despite being made of cardboard, Ban's design is earthquake-proof, fireproof and waterproof. In his own words, Ban states that:

"The strength of the materials is unrelated to the strength of the building. The first time I used paper was for an interior, but I realized it was strong enough to be used as a structural element — to actually hold up the building."

And so it does in the Transitional Cathedral. The building is so structurally sound that you could flip it over on its side and shake it vigorously without damaging it. Despite all these amazing properties, the Transitional Cathedral, true to its name, is not planned to stand forever. In 50 years, when a new, permanent cathedral is in place, the cardboard cathedral will come down — as all cardboard forts ultimately must.

Cardboard Cathedral via NewScientist

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