Rebuild Cathedral’s steeple like the Amish do

An idea to rebuild the Christ Church Cathedral’s steeple like a traditional American “barn-raising” with the help of 500 residents is causing a stir.

Marcus Brandt, a master carpenter and stonemason, restores historic stone and timber buildings in the United States using timber framing.

COMPELLING: Marcus Brandt presents at a council meeting showing how the steeple could be hoisted up. PHOTO: DEON SWIGGS

He has hatched an idea to rebuild the Cathedral’s steeple in pieces out of timber, before placing the stone on the outside so it looks the same.

The pre-fabricated timber pieces would be built then nestled inside one another like a telescope.

About 500 people would then use rope to pull the steeple up and into place.

Mr Brandt, along with Restore Christ Church Cathedral group spokesman Mark Belton and Canterbury University engineering Professor Andy Buchanan presented the idea to city councillors on Thursday.

If it was supported, Prof Buchanan would provide technical engineering support to the project as he is based in Christchurch.

OLD METHOD: A traditional American barn-raising.

Mr Brandt told city councillors the method was used a lot by Amish communities in the US to raise barns and churches.

He said it was a good way to bring the community together.

Six years ago he turned on the television to see footage of the aftermath of the devastating February 2011 earthquake. He saw the Cathedral’s damaged steeple, he said.

“I realised there is a traditional form of steeple building that could repair and replace that spire that would engage the people of Christchurch and the world.”

He has since prepared a report, and has built a model of how the steeple would rise up which he showed to councillors.

“I’ve been thinking about this entirely too much, you ask my wife, she’ll tell you.”

The Cathedral was severely damaged in the February 2011 earthquake.

Six years later, no decisions on its future have been made. One was expected before Christmas, but that did not happen.

“I’m not here to take sides, I’m here to lend a shoulder to Christchurch,” Mr Brandt said.

He said the timber frames would cost roughly $1.5million with the whole project costing about $2million.

If they got the go ahead in the next couple of months, they could have the project completed for February 22, 2019, he said.

Mr Belton said he and Prof Buchanan presented the idea to the Cathedral Working Group and they were “very engaged”.

It had been included in its report to the Government, he said.

The Timber Framers Guild, which is an education organisation based in the US, is also keen to assist the project if it got the go ahead.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the city council had no part in the Cathedral’s future.

But the presentation would “start a conversation”.

“I’ve never seen the likes of it. It captured my imagination.”