Thumbs up for Hundertwasser centre

By Peter de Graaf

An architect's drawing of the planned Hundertwasser Park Visitor Centre.
An architect's drawing of the planned Hundertwasser Park Visitor Centre.

While Whangarei's proposal for a Hundertwasser Arts Centre remains mired in controversy, Kawakawa's plans for a park and visitor centre honouring the Austrian-born artist are steaming ahead.

Architectural drawings for a Hundertwasser Park Visitor Centre were unveiled this week, showing a two-storey building of curving lines topped by a grass roof, wooden shingles and onion domes.

It will house a display on Hundertwasser's life in Kawakawa, a cafe, exhibition space, workshop, and a space similar to a marae atea [courtyard] signifying the North's biculturalism.

Planting of the park, on what used to be paddocks behind the Hundertwasser toilets, started in 2011.

The centre has been designed by a friend of Hundertwasser's, Thomas Lauterbach, and environmental architect Graeme North.

Kawakawa Hundertwasser Park Charitable Trust chairwoman Noma Shepherd said the project was a living tribute to the artist, his philosophy, and all he had done for the town.

"There's no question of support from any of our public, we are all behind a beautiful connected project here, and have always been behind the artist."

Dan Stratford, of Kawakawa's Trainspotter Cafe, urged Whangarei to press ahead with its Hundertwasser project.

"If it goes ahead, people will visit the museum in Whangarei and then come to Kawakawa to see the real thing."

Others in Kawakawa are more ambivalent, seeing the Hundertwasser toilets as Kawakawa's treasure.

Friend Ron Cleaver said Hundertwasser believed in harmony with nature, not function and profit: "Maybe Kawakawa's project won't be as large or expensive as Whangarei, but it will be authentic and connected to the artist."

A council-commissioned telephone poll in Whangarei found more than half the 1000 people surveyed were opposed to the Hundertwasser Arts Centre.

Different concepts, different support

One of Hundertwasser's closest friends says the Whangarei and Kawakawa projects are "totally different concepts".

Thomas Lauterbach, (pictured) of Whangarei, said the visitors centre planned in Kawakawa was not a Hundertwasser building as such. Instead, it was designed to be a living example of his philosophy of living humbly and in balance with nature. It would also illustrate the way he built his home at Kaurinui by the Waikare Inlet.

"This will be a visitor and learning centre, with an emphasis on carrying on the legacy of Friedrich. It will be an example of how environmental building can be done," Mr Lauterbach said. "We want to answer questions many people have when they visit the toilets."

Unlike the Whangarei project, Mr Lauterbach said the centre had "100 per cent community support. This is going to happen, and it looks like it will happen before Whangarei's Hundertwasser Arts Centre."

- Northern Advocate

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