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.
His concept was adopted and construction was completed early this year, 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.
In 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.
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.
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. So impressive has been the final result that Creative New Zealand gave the project the “premier” certificate in the Creative Places Awards 2000 contest. The results were announced at the Local Government New Zealand conference at Christchurch earlier this year.
In making the award Creative New Zealand chairperson Peter Biggs said:- “This project was initiated by a rural community in a district that has faced many challenges. Yet the Far North has realised a magnificent, integrated project which stands out as a gleaming example to the rest of New Zealand.”
The Hundertwasser toilet project was also the Urban and Landscape Design category winner in the awards. The building is now arguably the most photographed “public loo” in New Zealand, and possibly in the world.