The first glimpse what Whangārei's Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Māori Art Gallery will look like in all its quirky glory has been revealed, more than two years since work began.
For months the entire building has been wrapped in a plastic shroud as plasterers, tilers and bricklayers work on the intricate detail of the facade.
Last Friday, a section covering a side wall was removed and the unmistakable architectural style of Friedensreich Hundertwasser - who celebrated irregular lines and contrasting textures and colours - was seen for the first time.
Tens of thousands of coloured tiles and 40,000 recycled red bricks are being used on the exterior of the building and its immediate surrounds.
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Lead tiling contractor Bruce Hancock said the experience was completely unique.
"Tilers normally lay in straight, geometric lines but there are none of these on this building," he said.
"It is all curves to mimic the way things are in nature. It has been a real challenge to achieve but this building will itself be a work of art once it's complete."
The $33.2 million Hundertwasser Art Centre will house the only permanent collection of Hundertwasser works outside of Austria and be the new home of the Wairau Māori Art Gallery, a national gallery dedicated to contemporary Māori art.
It's the world's last authentic building design by the late Austrian-born artist and architect and the only art centre outside of Vienna to host his original art.
So far more than 500 people have been employed by the project, which is due to open in December 2021. There are 65 people working on site now.
Work on the exterior of the building is expected to continue for several months, while preparations are underway for planting on the rooftop.
Around 540 cubic metres of soil - approximately 5400 wheelbarrow loads - will be lifted onto the building to create the largest afforested roof in the southern hemisphere.
Whangārei Art Museum Trust chief executive Kathleen Drumm said it was exciting to see the building reveal itself.
"The care and expertise displayed by the local artisans has been exceptional and today we see for the first time some of the results of their efforts," she said.
"What we are building is totally unique and will become an iconic new cultural and tourism destination for Northland.
"It will attract tens of thousands of visitors each year who will spend time in the city and wider region, so the benefits will be shared by all."
However, Drumm recently said an absence of international visitors for the centre's first year of opening, due to Covid-19, had to be taken into account.
Predictions had been for 42 per cent of visitors to be international, so management was working with the tourism sector to drive New Zealanders to dig into their pockets and visit the centre.