It's the crowning glory of Whangārei's Hundertwasser centre and the cupola is now getting $50,000 worth of fine gold leaf put on ahead of it going atop the structure.
The intricate job of putting the sheets of gold leaf — it takes 1000 sheets to make up 1mm thickness - is going on at Whangārei's Absolute Stainless' fabrication workshop.
Once finished it will be barged down Hātea River and craned onto the $33 million Hundertwasser Art Centre (HAC) with Wairau Art Gallery, likely next month.
The gold leaf is a critical part of Hundertwasser's design and has superb longevity, lasting up to 100 years.
''We looked at using gold paint but it would need to be replaced every couple of years, which would be expensive and dangerous logistically,'' a HAC spokesman said.
And the man doing the painstaking job is Vern Newlove, from Auckland.
He is a very experienced guilder, not only with gold but all other precious metals, and is one of the best in the country at his craft.
And although the gold leaf cost around $50,000 it will be virtually worthless if it is removed as it will be too soft to do anything with.
Once the cupola is put atop the building at Whangārei's Town basin, the finishing work, and countdown to opening - planned for December - will begin.
Around 130 native plants, plus a further 2500 groundcover plants worth about $100,000, have been donated by Tawapou Coastal Native Nursery. Ranging in size from 1-3m and set to grow up to 5m the plants have been put on the roof of the centre - as per Hundertwasser's plans.
• Cupola surface area - 90sq m
• How long is the leafing process going to take? - 6 weeks
• The gold leaf has come from Florence, Italy
• Each leaf is extremely thin – It takes 1000 pieces to make just 1mm thickness
• Each gold sheet is 100mm x 100mm
• The gold gets a resin epoxy sealer over the top with a further international clear lacquer to finish. This prevents it from deteriorating over time.
• In architecture, a cupola is a relatively small, most often dome-like, tall structure on top of a building. Often used to provide a lookout or to admit light and air, it usually crowns a larger roof or dome.