Driving by the half-demolished old regional council building, where the Hundertwasser will go, I'll admit to some sadness.

I liked that building, its elegant simplicity, its considered proportions. And it had a history, when so few buildings in Whangārei do.

There's always a kind of violence in building something new in the existing fabric of a city. Something has to be destroyed, even if it's a vacant space or a free line of sight (both having intrinsic value).

Contractors take apart the old Harbour Board/NRC building in early July 2018 to make way for the Hundertwasser Art Centre. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Contractors take apart the old Harbour Board/NRC building in early July 2018 to make way for the Hundertwasser Art Centre. Photo / Michael Cunningham

The Paris that's much celebrated today, for its boulevards and architectural uniformity, was the product of the wholesale destruction of the old chaotic medieval city and the displacement of the mostly poor people who lived there. State force and suppression made the "City of Light" possible.

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In Auckland in the 80s and 90s, sadly, too many old buildings were destroyed in the central city to make way for the corporate towers that dominate the skyline today.

The new marches onwards, building and destroying simultaneously, driven by commerce, a growing population, and occasionally by people who have a vision for bettering the urban environment. Though as we know, that can be a contested matter of opinion.

The model of the Hundertwasser Art Centre being built in Whangarei. Photo / Richard Smart
The model of the Hundertwasser Art Centre being built in Whangarei. Photo / Richard Smart

I do admire the tenacity of the people who wanted to see the Hundertwasser built. A small number of people in the end probably made it happen.

Equally, I can sympathise with those people who've opposed it.

I can relate for the reason that I was living in central Auckland when the Sky Tower was built. I hated it. Passionately.

To me, it seemed a lame attempt to copy what other cities around the world had done. Such a New Zealand thing to do.

The design was, I thought, particularly uninspired. A giant hypodermic needle was the best description.

What right did the developers and the council have to change so dramatically the look of the city I lived in? Money and power I guess.

But over time my distaste softened, and I eventually moved back up North.

When I visit Auckland I have no ill feelings. The Sky Tower is simply part of the total environment of the city. Now that it's there I'd probably miss it if it weren't.

The builders of the Sky Tower have won, through the passing of years more than anything.

My advice to people who've opposed the Hundertwasser ― and there were defensible grounds for doing so ― is to just let it go.

Time does heal wounds. Once it's been standing for a few years, you might even come to like it, or at least foster a benign indifference. It's hard to sustain a grudge against a building. I know.

But don't stop engaging with the decisions that affect our city. The creative friction between builders and preservers is a necessary part of Whangārei continuing to improve its urban environment. Not for the tourists, but for those of us living in the district.

■ Vaughan Gunson is a writer and poet interested in social justice and big issues facing the planet.