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Hundertwasser - Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Hundertwasser Kawakawa toiletFrederick Hundertwasser first visited New Zealand in the 1970's to mount a public exhibition of his work. He was so captured by the country that he resolved to make it his second home, purchasing an isolated rural property on the Waikino peninsula on the Waikare Inlet east of the Kawakawa. Initially he was to spend only a few months of each year in the Bay of Islands, with the majority of his time still spent in Europe - Vienna in particular. But in recent years Hundertwasser spent more and more time at his New Zealand home.

He loved the informality of the area and the freedom to walk the streets of the Kawakawa township anonymously. He felt for the town and its entrapment in the rural decline which so much of New Zealand had suffered.

In 1998 the Kawakawa Community Board was looking to upgrade 40-year-old toilet facilities in the central township, and Hundertwasser offered a solution from his design palate. To Hundertwasser, a toilet is very special because you meditate in a toilet. Like a church. "The similarity is not so far fetched" - he says. His concept was adopted and, with the artist personally lending a hand in construction supervision, including the provision of materials from his own studio. Hundertwasser was in fact more involved in construction than he was in the world-renown Hundertwasser House apartments project in Vienna.

Hundertwasser Kawakawa toiletIn consultation with the Bay of Islands College, students prepared ceramic tiles which have been used throughout the building. The bricks used came from a former Bank of New Zealand building, and both young and old from the local community volunteered services to the construction process. Frederick Hundertwasser's toilet was opened in a dawn ceremony. The finished product is a work of art, from the grass roof, to gold balls, ceramic tiles, bottle glass windows, mosaic tiling, copper handwork, cobblestone flooring, individual sculptures and a living tree integrated into the design structure.

Hundertwasser could never have dreamed of the impact he was going to have on a small, rural community when he made New Zealand his second home 25 years ago. From a sleepy hollow just off the tourist track through the Bay of Islands, the Kawakawa township has burgeoned into a "must see" mecca for Hundertwasser devotees worldwide. The project has attracted both French and Japanese television documentary teams to Kawakawa, together with international visitors numbering in the thousands. Bus tours pull up outside for photo sessions, travelers familiar with Hundertwasser's work in Europe are making special visits to the Bay of Islands rural township, and domestic visitors are making a stopover for both practical and philosophical reasons.

With the untimely death of the Austrian-born artist in February 2000, the building is the only Hundertwasser structure in the Southern Hemisphere, and the last major project ever undertaken by the famous artist and designer. It will remain as both a memorial to Frederick Hundertwasser and a very functional building for the community and visitors alike.

Frederick HundertwasserInternationally renowned artist and architect Frederick Hundertwasser Friedensreich Hundertwasser, 1928-2000 Photo from Tourismusverband Uelzen Apart from the Koru flag he designed in 1983 as an alternative standard for Aotearoa, his 1990 TVNZ appearance as part of the "Living Treasures" series, and his public toilets in Kawakawa, Hundertwasser's international profile was always far higher than his New Zealand profile.

Hundertwasser spent his whole career championing the curve of organic nature against the straight line. From the mid 70s, all his marvellous buildings - such as Hundertwasser House in Vienna (1985) and the hot springs village of Blumau in Styria (1990-97) - were ergonomically curved and ecologically integrated with humus toilets supplying compost to roof gardens. From engaging in performance art in favour of mass nudity in the 60s, Hundertwasser became more and more involved in ethnic issues in the 70s (especially after he moved to New Zealand in 1973, where he became involved with Maori culture).

KoruFriedrich Stowasser, better known as Hundertwasser (German: hundred water), in 1979. Born of a Jewish family in 1928, he survived the Second World War by hiding out in Vienna. After a long-standing career in avant-garde art, where he became more famous on the Continent rather than in Anglo-Saxon countries, he died on board the QE2 while sailing from his adopted New Zealand on a trip back to Europe.

In 1968 he changed his given name to Friedensreich ("abundance of peace"), and since then added the words "Regentag (Rainy day) and "Dunkelbunt" ("Dark multi coloured') to his surname. He is buried in New Zealand, in his garden of the Happy Dead, under a tulip tree. Hundertwasser's art was incredibly inventive and provided the world with some of the best art and architecture in the last decades of the 20th century.


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