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The Best Bathroom in The World - Kawakawa Bay of Islands NZ
An Introduction To Kawakawa
Kawakawa is a small township on the cusp of The Bay of Islands in the Northland Region of New Zealand’s North Island.
With a population of fewer than 2,000, it is perhaps not where you would expect to find the best bathroom in the world!
Having visited Kawakawa in the early 1980’s, it was solely known as “Train Town”.
I boarded Gabriel the train without a care in the world, or knowledge that there was soon to be another landmark in Kawakawa that would be bringing worldwide focus and acclaim, the Hundertwasser toilets, so named after Freidensreich Hundertwasser.
When you are driving through town, as soon as you see the zebra crossing, you know you have arrived at the bathroom (if you haven’t spotted it already!).
The best place to take a photo of the outside design work and detail is from the middle of the road, not easy with traffic and the surprisingly quiet Gabriel travelling through.
Looking at these public toilets, tufts of grass seem to be growing from the roof, mosaic tiles, copper and metal sculptures, cobblestone detail and glass bricks are all intermingled in a collage of abstract brilliance.
At first impressions it reminds me of the great Antonio Gaudi’s mosaic works but it really is Art of a very different nature.
Born in Vienna, Austria in 1928, his birth name was Friedrich Stowasser. During his early years he saw much hardship during the second world war as his mother was Jewish.
Having lost his father at a very early age, mother and son posed as Christians with Freidensreich even joining the Hitler Youth as a cover. After the war he showed an artistic talent whilst studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, and decided to change his name to Freidensreich Hundertwasser and signed his bold vivid paintings as such.
His is an Artist that is unique and cannot be compared as he is an Artist, Ecologist and Architect. He is quoted with saying that straight lines were “the devils tools” and championed curves in his organic works with undulating floors and vegetation.
He is most widely known for his architectural designs and buildings, predominantly in Germany and Austria. His work includes no less than 17 buildings including the Quixote Winery, Napa Valley, USA. The Hundertwasser toilets are the only southern hemisphere example of his genius.
His love affair with New Zealand began in the 1970’s on a trip to exhibit his Art. He fell in love with the beauty and the laid back informality of the Bay of Islands and bought an isolated property on the Waikino peninsula, where he was to spend more and more time through the years. He died at sea aboard the RMS QE2 in 2000; a year after this highly controversial contemporary genius finished the Kawakawa toilets.
From an Idea to a Reality
In 1998, Kawakawa Community Board decided it was time to revamp the 40 year old public toilets in the town centre. Hundertwasser offered up an idea from his creative palette.
It began with his idea that a toilet and a church were interlinked and said “A toilet is a place in which to meditate” – just as a church is. Hundertwasser was hired and oversaw all the design and construction work, providing much of the materials himself from his own eclectic studio.
In conjunction with The Bay of Islands College, he enlisted the help of the students in making ceramic tiles which may be seen throughout the building. He recycled bricks from a former Bank of New Zealand building.
Volunteers from the community assisted in the completion of the project. A dawn opening ceremony saw the Hudertwasser toilets open. Amazingly, they had been made deliberately with uneven floors, recycled materials, crooked poles and landscaped nature which included a living tree!
Without doubt, this masterpiece of ingenuity will be the most unusual work of art you will ever see!
Artist, Ecologist or Architect?
Well worth a watch - showing other amazing buildings and art by Hundertwasser
In The Spotlight of The World
Little did Hundertwasser know how his public toilets would achieve worldwide recognition.
In a tiny “off the beaten track” town that many travellers did not know and many would have missed on their way to the Bay of Islands in NZ.
Kawakawa is now a firm “must see” destination, attracting bus loads of tourists annually, eager to see this work of art.
Thousands of International and Domestic visitors familiar with the artist, make the trip specifically to see the toilets each year.There has even been television documentaries made for Japanese and French television.
The vision and inventiveness of this creative award winning Austrian gave us the world’s most unusual bathroom without question and in this authors opinion, the world's best bathroom!
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The Best Bathroom in The World Contains a Living Tree
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