Loosing it in style

Is it a museum? Or maybe a gallery? Nope, neither. ‘Just’ the public toilets of Kawakawa! Designed by the famous Austrian artist Friendensreich Hundertwasser. Planning to cycle the Twin Coast Cycle Trail in the north of New Zealand? Make sure to take a pee at this special loo. Even if your bladder isn’t full, it’s worth a visit. And bring your camera!

The Twin Coast Cycle Trail (Pou Herenga Tai) runs from Paihia in the Bay of Islands to Hokianga Harbour, or vice versa. A beautiful 87km ride through the winterless north of New Zealand. The trail follows an old train corridor through native bush, suspension bridges, tunnels, estuaries, waterfalls and inviting villages.

Twin Coast Cycle Trail
We start in Paihia and cycle via the impressive Taumarere Bridge to Taumarere railway station to meet Gabrial, the steam train. Grabriel takes us and our bikes in style to Kawakawa. Volunteers look after the steam train, so it can ride daily between the two railway stations. That’s not an easy job because there’s a lot of coal going into Gabriel’s insatiable belly. Three loud whistles indicate our departure. Clouds of steam are surrounding us and makes the train disappearing out of sight. Gabriel drives us smoothly through a gently sloping landscape with grazing cows and a few small houses. John, one of the volunteers, tells us that New Zealand’s earliest Maori and European settlements were in this area. Probably because of the weather, he jokes.

Artistic toilets
The steam train splits it’s way right through the main street of Kawakawa to the railway station. Quite a spectacular sight, according to all the tourists taking photos of us and the train. We see a small glimpse of the colourful toilets. From the station, we cycle back 200m. We don’t have to look far. The Hundertwasser toilets are not overlooked easily with the colourful pillars, the overgrown roof and the tree that’s integrated in the structure’s design. Probably the most photographed public toilets in New Zealand and the main attraction of Kawakawa. Thanks to the artistic toilets this rural village can count on many tourist and Hundertwasser fans from all over de world.

Not sterile or boring
The entrance is very inviting with the colourful pillars, the plants on top of the roof and a huge tree-top sticking out. The stem of the tree stands in the middle of the building. On the ground we see small cobblestones, not the sterile and boring tiles we normally see in public toilets. No, all the colours of the rainbow are represented. Through a small hallway decorated with mosaic tiling and red-orange floor tiles we enter the toilets. No two tiles are the same. Our attention is drawn to the back of the hallway, where a window made of glass bottles in green and yellow shines. A beautiful soft light enters the building. Even the toilets area is a bright collection of tiles in all shapes and colours. There’s a lot of light coming in from the roof. It’s impossible to find symmetric or sleek shapes, but colours are plentiful!

We roam through the Hundertwasser public toilets as if it was a museum. Wondering if not more public toilets could receive a face-lift like this one. Back home we would want to leave a public toilet as soon as possible. But this toilet is not only very practical, it’s also fun, interesting and a free visit to a (small) museum.

Don’t forget….
Art lover or not, you have to visit the public toilets in Kawakawa. Even if you don’t have to go. Tip: Kawakawa has lots of nice cafes where you can order a good coffee or something else to drink. And who knows, a few nice drinks might help to….. Cause after all, who doesn’t want to loose it in an artwork! ☺

Nice to know

New Zealand second home
Kawakawa owes a lot to the Austrian artist. Without him, this village might have fallen into oblivion. Hundertwasser died in 2000, but his ideas and presents are still very alive in Kawakawa. Friendensreich Hundertwasser visited New Zealand for the first time in the 1970’s to promote his exhibition. He was very impressed by the sheer beauty of the country and decided to make New-Zealand his second home. He lived on the Waikino Peninsula, east of Kawakawa. He enjoyed the informality, anonymously, nature and the people.

Practical art
In 1998 the community board was looking to upgrade the 40-year-old toilet facilities in the central township. Hundertwasser offered a solution. The villagers loved his idea and together they started the project. Hundertwasser found it important to have the community involved. That’s why students from Bay of Island College prepared ceramic tiles which have been used throughout the building. The bricks they used came from a former bank building. Also, they collected bottles in a ray of colours and young and old helped building this piece of art. The result: a glass roof, gold balls, ceramic tiles, bottle glass windows, mosaic tiling, copper handwork, cobblestone flooring, individual sculptures and a living tree integrated into the design structure.

2018-01-18T17:28:41+00:00January 18th, 2018|

Leave A Comment