Funny Dunny in Kawakawa
Kawakawa Public Toilet
When tourists flock to the remote New Zealand town of Kawakawa, where the railway runs down the main street, they head for the public toilet, not so much to use its facilities as to gaze in awe at the building's unique architecture and bizarre artwork.
It's a lasting memorial to a gifted but eccentric Austrian designer and artist, Frederick Hundertwasser (born Friedrich Stowasser) who, after visiting New Zealand in 1970 to exhibit his work, decided to settle in that country, making his home in Keri Keri, near Kawakawa, a four-hour drive north from Auckland.
He had won fame in Europe for having designed the Hundertwasser House apartments project in Vienna, said to attract a million tourists every year, and many other quirky structures.
When, in 1998, the Kawakawa Community Board decided to upgrade the toilet block, Hundertwasser volunteered to design and decorate the new building. The offer was gladly accepted.
"His concept was adopted and construction was completed, with the artist personally lending a hand in construction supervision, including the provision of materials from his own studio," says the Far North District Council.
"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."
Another article, headed Toil et Art, says: "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.
"True to ingrate form, NZ Post turned down his offer to design stamps for free the same year the United Nations commissioned him to design a series for the world."
In 2002, Universal Mail in New Zealand, a direct competitor of NZ Post, released a set of five international stamps with Hundertwasser images.
"The stamps do not depict graphics created by Hundertwasser, but show
drawings of 5 different buildings designed by him" says an illustrated article
on a Danish website. "The artwork was organized by the Austrian stamp dealer
Herbert Abfalter. It is unknown who is the designer of the stamps, which are
issued in a limited printing of 2500 and are issued in se-tenant* strips of 5
for each of the two different values ($1.50 and $2.00)."
* se-tenant: a group of stamps that differ in colour, value, or design but are printed together on the same sheet and are collected without being separated.
Hundertwasser died in 2000, aged 72. He was buried, without a coffin, under a tree in his garden.
Friedrich Stowasser, better known as Hundertwasser (German: hundred
water). 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.
- Flat Rock, Chaotic Web Development.
Shortly before his death, Hundertwasser had prepared plans to give a facelift to the Green Citadel, an old apartment building in Magdeburg, in the former communist East Germany. His last major project in Europe was officially opened last month.
The new building, containing apartments and offices, has no straight lines, is pink, and has golden domes. Joram Harel, the artist's friend for 30 years and administrator of his estate, doesn't like the lavatory tiles. "This (the dunny) doesn't have anything to do with Hundertwasser, that's 'kitsch'," Harel told the local newspaper Magdeburger Volksstimme.
Hundertwasser's blithe spirit lives on, too, in New Zealand's fourth-largest city, Dunedin, where Mild Red’s Winter '05 fashion collection was inspired by his architectural and artistic works. “He was the most eccentric man I’ve ever met - and delightfully so” says designer Donna Tulloch.
|Story first posted November 2005|
Copyright © 2005