Rebuild Christchurch Cathedral. It’s such a simple thing to say, and yet seems so hard for some people to think of doing. While some people I know think that Bishop Victoria Matthews is a evil wench for proposing that the church be demolished, at least she is being honest in saying that the Anglican church doesn’t want old, cold buildings, and a new church would suit them better. Others are saying that – be that as it may – the Church has got no right to destroy what is, after all, a symbol not just for the church, but for the whole of the Canterbury region. It’s like the Sydney Opera House – technically, it no doubt belongs to an opera company, but really the people of Sydney feel like they own it (actually, they probably do: it was financed by lottery tickets way back in the day…).

So- at long last – some clever engineers have come up with a proposal for how the building can be saved. Stefano Pampanin, a lecturer at the School of Engineering down at Canterbury; Robert Davey from Opus; and Adam Thornton, a pretty savvy structural engineer up here in Wellington, have come up with a simple sequence of how the Cathedral could be saved. You can read it here :cathedralreport.

There’s nothing too amazingly different about what the engineers are proposing, as to what we here at the Fish, and many other sensible people have been saying: Start at the West End. The west wall has gone, destroyed for ever. Shed a tear – move on. This is what you will see:

Now the process of saving the rest can begin.

Build a steel protection cage around the workers, and push it on through the central aisle, strengthening as you go. The key thing of course, is that this is being proposed by world class engineers, specialists in their field, and leaders within NZ for their earthquake expertise. Even though it is nothing new : because they have said it, it gains authority, and can be done.

Here you can see that while the stone work and brickwork needs extensive repair and rebuilding, the timber roof is holding it all together at present. My guess is that new steel columns would be best, and these can be relatively simply installed – the bigger issue will be the foundations that they need to sit on. These can be done progressively as the inside moves along.

The question has always been: Should it be done? Obviously the Bishop has given up the fight, and is following the dodgy advice that the building can / should be demolished. Personally, I’ve never bought into the scenario that reducing the height of the wall down to 2-3m high is in any way a feasible option. The Bishop has also been spouting absolute bullshit, when she says that the building will be carefully “deconstructed” rather than being “demolished” – the giant nibblers they are using just destroy every fragment of stone, rather than saving it. Certainly it would be safer to demolish with a giant wreckers ball, and keep everyone clear, that would be safer than trying to pull the roof off and then “delicately” lower the walls.

There is news today too, that this process of keeping the Cathedral would be cheaper than demolishing it and rebuilding. Again: its common sense. You have a perfectly good roof structure made of timber, that is currently all in one piece, except for right at the west end. Apparently there is not even a single tile out of place at the apse. There is no logic at all in demolishing it as it stands.

And so there we are. No reason to demolish. Here’s a plan on how to do it. Do we, as a country, have the gumption to take the lead and keep the Cathedral, instead of destroying it all and making more of a wasteland of our southern city?

We even have a royal decree…

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