New Zealand’s next cultural icon to emerge in Whangārei 

Move over Bilbao, New Zealand’s newest cultural destination is going to be an out-of-this-world experience.

Hundertwasser Art Centre, Whangārei New Zealand

An extraordinary blend of art, culture, colour and nature is coming together as New Zealand’s newest cultural icon emerges on the Whangārei waterfront.

Described as “a building unlike any other”, the whimsical flowing lines and vibrant colours of the Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Māori Art Gallery will create both a stunning out-of-this-world visual statement and a home for a unique experience of art and nature.

Art Centre chief executive Kathleen Drumm says the building, featuring the largest afforested roof in the southern hemisphere, a golden onion-shaped viewing platform and vivid decorated ceramic tiles in the artist’s signature style, will be “a work of art, in itself, and unlike anything else in our part of the world.”
Austrian-born New Zealand artist and architect, Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000), designed the building 27 years ago which is now destined to become a legacy to his life and the body of work he created while living in the Bay of Islands during the 1970s. Until now the largest of those has been the quirky, much visited public toilet installation in nearby Kawakawa.   

For Hundertwasser, New Zealand offered the opportunity to live and work close to nature. He was an ecological activist, a keen tree planter and campaigner for the environment and waste-free society, and Kathleen Drumm says the new centre is more than just a building – “it aims to enrich people's lives through the experience of art and nature."

Construction materials include the use of 30,000 reclaimed and chipped bricks and 3 kilometres of recycled timber, and the building sits under an extensive rooftop garden which will be a celebration of indigenous biodiversity. The garden will feature 200 native and rare plants, including the world’s rarest tree, the Three Kings kaikomako (Pennantia baylisiana) of which only one specimen can still be found growing in the wild on the remote Three Kings islands.

Along with a multi-million dollar Hundertwasser art collection, which will be the only permanent display of his works outside Austria, the building will also house the Wairau Māori Art Gallery – New Zealand’s first dedicated permanent gallery of contemporary Māori art. It will also contain an auditorium, a shop and a restaurant offering a new taste experience.

The Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Māori Art Gallery will open during the 2021/22 New Zealand summer season.