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Cathedral Work Symbolises City’s Strength

The sound of tools at work will shortly echo from Christ Church Cathedral – a solid symbol of our community’s resilient strength.



Prior to lockdown, the Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Project was at its busiest, with physical work scheduled for early April.

The pause button was hit, but now the project is again ramping up.

Creating a clear pathway to start the project was the task for the last 14 months, spent working out the best solutions for the complex reinstatement with Warren and Mahoney architects, Naylor Love’s construction specialists and structural engineers, Holmes Consulting.

During lockdown the tight team continued to work remotely, so it could hit the ground running as soon as the lockdown guidelines allowed construction to begin.

“It is an amalgamation of getting the work done as quickly, cost effectively and safely as possible,” Project Director Keith Paterson says.

“The work won’t be disruptive to the CBD, with a maximum of between 40 and 50 specialists working at any one time. This makes it easier for social distancing and other safety precautions too.

“Nothing is more important than people’s health and safety, and this will always be our number one priority. Special requirements will be in place to manage worker health and safety while we continue to manage COVID-19.”

Importantly, local workers will be used where they can, he says.

“It was always a locally resourced project with work done by hand by specialist stonemasons. We have retained much of the original stone.

“Many parts of the cathedral are to be deconstructed and put back together – just like a jigsaw. It will look very similar to what it always did, with as much heritage value saved as possible, but with many improvements.”

Senior Project Manager Tim Anthon says a frame will first be set up around the building and then covered up, for weather-proofing and to prevent access for the long-residing pigeons!

The steel framing to be used in areas such as the Rose window needed absolute precision – it was a material that couldn’t be stretched.

“It is a completely different sort of build, estimated to take up to eight years to complete, and this is consistent with similar cathedrals and heritage buildings around the world,” he says.

The north side will be set up primarily for vehicle access.

On the western fencing there will be an in-depth public information area where people can get an understanding of the history and heritage, and watch the progress via viewing portals.

Prince Charles became the Cathedral’s Royal Patron during his visit in November and said it was his dearest wish for the cathedral to become a proud symbol of the city once more.

There was an important site and worker blessing on 12 May, which marked the beginning of the project’s exhilarating journey.

“As the sun rose we asked God to bless everyone working on the project and the cathedral site; it was deeply moving,” Anglican Bishop of Christchurch, Peter Carrell says.

“Physical work will get underway soon and there is a palpable sense of excitement.”

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City’s Labour of Love

The Christ Church Cathedral reinstatement will be the city’s labour of love – and preparations are underway for early 2020, when the action starts.


Project Story | Olivia Spencer-Bower


Although nothing appears to be happening at the moment, plenty is going on in the background. Excitement is building at Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Project headquarters, where a tight team of up to 10 prepare for the 12 to 18-month initial stabilisation phase. “This is our Notre Dame. It’s not your regular doer-upper,” Project Director Keith Paterson says.

“A complex job always requires more planning. In the heritage world especially, things take time – and this is the crown in Christchurch’s rebuild. We are working through the best ways to make it structurally sound and safe to work in.”
The reinstated Cathedral will look similar – only greatly enhanced for the future. “It will provide more flexibility, be far more comfortable and functional,” he says.

Expect a warmer place of worship with improved acoustics. The main building will be stabilised and repaired first, then comes the visitor’s centre, and finally a new tower – offering the quintessential Christchurch experience of climbing up its stairs once again.

Paterson says waiting this long has its positives, as the industry has had time to develop new techniques and test them throughout the rebuild. “We have to make sure we get it right. It’s not the place to take any risks.”

The concept design is being fronted by Warren and Mahoney and Holmes Consulting Limited partnership, with input from Rawlinsons. Naylor Love Canterbury has been appointed for construction logistics, methodologies and programme advice, which he says is a good fit with other projects they’ve been involved in such as Christ’s College, Isaac Theatre Royal, and currently Wellington Town Hall’s strengthening and base isolation – that the Cathedral also requires.

The required skills of artisanship will be sourced locally as far as possible, and internationally where appropriate. “You could say we are rebuilding the skeleton from the inside. The walls, up to 1.2 metres thick, will be stripped from the inside and the existing rubble fill replaced with steel or reinforced concrete. It’s going to be complex, and it is always harder to retro-fit – especially a Cathedral.

As much heritage as possible will be retained, including items like the recently recovered stained glass angel’s head. He says the reinstatement will be a monumental structural repair of international significance. Likely the most complex Cathedral repair project globally, it will be worth the patience. The team is exploring ways of making the reinstatement accessible to the public using technology like CCTV as part of a temporary visitor experience centre.

“It takes a community to build – or in this case rebuild – a Cathedral and an independent trust has been established to fundraise and oversee the use of public funds,” Paterson says. “A public campaign will be launched next year, but anyone is welcome to donate now online, by post, or in person.”

The Dean of the Cathedral, the Very Reverend Lawrence Kimberley, is delighted that progress is being made. “It will be a joy to see the Cathedral on its way back to becoming a sacred and welcoming place for all,” he says.

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