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Photo: © HR/bauverein AG Darmstadt

Photo: © HR/bauverein AG Darmstadt

Friedensreich Hundertwasser 

Waldspirale

The Austrian artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser is said to have once called straight lines “the devil’s tools”. Hundertwasser is well known in New Zealand for the Toilets in Kawakawa, possibly the world’s most architecturally important public bathroom.

Hundertwasser designed many buildings throughout Austria and Germany, but the Waldspirale is a loud testament to Hundertwasser’s hatred of straight lines and his allegiance to nature. Waldspirale translates to “wooded spiral,” and that is exactly what it is.

The large spiraled building is topped with an incredible forest – beech, maple and lime trees grow on the undulating, twisting roof. The Waldspirale has 105 apartments and more than 1000 windows. Not one of these windows is shaped the same in this “out of line” building, and many have “tree tenants” growing right through them.

At the highest point the building has 12 floors. You can climb to the wooded spiral roof, which includes a cafe and a bar. Hundertwasser’s aversion to the “devil’s tools” is carried to the interior as well; the corners between the walls and ceiling are rounded off in every apartment. The Waldspirale is a testament to Hundertwasser’s organic aspirations and deep love of nature. As he once said, “If man walks in nature’s midst, then he is nature’s guest and must learn to behave as a well-brought-up guest.”

Hundertwasser’s final project was a set of public toilets in the small New Zealand town of Kawakawa where he spent his final years and those toilets are still open for “business.”

Frederick 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.

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 apartment’s project in Vienna.

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. 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, travellers 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.

Hundertwasser’s manifestos and ideas were rooted in ecological views long before they were generally acknowledged. The artist always stood for organic ways of living, with colours and shapes tuned to the natural and the human.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser died from a heart attack on February, 19, 2000, on board the Queen Elizabeth II. According to his wishes he was buried in harmony with nature on his land in New Zealand, in the Garden of the Happy Deads, under a tulip tree.

 

I close my eyes halfway

Just as when I conceive paintings

And I see the houses Dunkelbunt

Instead of ugly cream colour

And green meadows on all roofs

Instead of concrete.

 

I am looking forward 

To becoming Humus myself

Buried naked without a coffin

Under a tree 

On my land in Ao tea roa.

Hundertwasser, 1979

http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/waldspirale
http://www.bay-of-islands-nz.com/hundertwasser.shtml
http://www.hundertwasser.com/documentation/show?type=biography&key=bio
 


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  • pidge

    So, Eleanor Catton, NZ’ers don’t appreciate the Arts? Really? Don’t invoke a “No True Scottsman” fallacy on us now…

  • Pete

    It sort of kicks Cattons pontifications into the toilet eh?

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