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Mayor's ambitious vision for ChristChurch cathedral

Published: 6:39AM Monday January 21, 2013 Source: Fairfax

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

The Christchurch Mayor has waded into the heated debate over the fate of the cathedral, but he comes 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 the building up to the stars.

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

His plan has been pitched to Anglican leaders but was yet to receive a price tag.

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

The mayor said he found his inspiration from Norway's Hedmark Museum, which has a huge glass encasement protecting the ruins of the 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.

So far, he had raised his plan with a number of people, including Bishop Victoria Matthews who "positively received" it, he said.

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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