Fascinated by the life of Hundertwasser, we visit Kawakawa, a small town north of Whangarei. It is best known for the public toilets the artist designed for the local community. “Round shapes, ceramics, colourful, a living tree in the building, check! This must be it!” Ivar proclaims. While we make use of the facilities, we notice that the wall is made of glass bottles. Colourful, functional, and sustainable.
Sustainable Thinking and Acting
The local community built a small Hundertwasser Centre here, too, because the artist lived nearby. Here, we learn more about his personal life. In a letter we read what he thought about sustainability: “Since Biblical times, man has been called upon to dominate the Earth. Modern man has abused this thought and killed the Earth. Now we must return to nature, which should be understood both symbolically and practically.”
He walked the talk on his Kaurinui estate, where he planted more than 100,000 trees. Not for the timber but to improve the soil, the air, and the water. He built a house with a grass roof, generated his energy locally using solar panels and hydropower, and designed and used a composting toilet.
Sustainable Until the End
At the Art Centre in Whangarei, an employee told us the story of a carpet he had made with Afghan women. On his last trip to Europe in 2000 he had this carpet with him. Because of his preference for slow travel, he booked a cabin on the cruise ship Queen Elizabeth 2 with destination Southampton. However, he died of a heart attack on the Pacific Ocean at the age of 71. He was found lifeless in his cabin lying on the carpet.
Hundertwasser wanted to be buried at his beloved estate in Kaurinui, in the Garden of the Happy Dead, as he called it. A tree grows on his grave. Even in death Hundertwasser was sustainable: he wanted to give his body back to nature.