In a nondescript back street, one facade catches the eye.
At first I found Vienna and the Viennese a little intimidating. Too grand, too well-dressed, and possibly too expensive. The ATM dispensed 100 euro banknotes – it was the first time I’d seen them.
That Habsburg architecture is impressive of course, though isn’t it also overblown and pompous? Fine for a palace or opera house but would you really want to live under all those cherubs in the cornices?
So it was welcome light relief to discover Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who revamped a Viennese city incinerator and later the public toilet block in Kawakawa, New Zealand, making them surely the world’s most enjoyable garbage disposal units. Continue reading
This has to be the world’s most photographed public toilet.
After we’d spent nearly four hours driving north from Auckland, the sight of any facilities was welcome. But these ones, in the village of Kawakawa in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands district, added a special magic to the relief. They were designed by the late, eccentric Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. His adobe arches, the pillars like strings of giant beads, and the grassy roof with a large tree growing through it make this loo a pleasure to spend a penny in. And it was free.
It’s a bit of a rip-off of the great Spansih architect Gaudi (or a ‘tribute’ to him, if we’re being kind to Hundertwasser), but fun all the same. Hundertwasser did a great job of cheering up stuffy old Vienna with his quirky creations, and when he moved to New Zealand, the Kiwis were so impressed they gave him this lavatory to work on. Trademarks of his architecture are bright colours, rounded pillars, jumbled mosaic tiles and organic floors – organic meaning ‘not even close to level’. We once drank coffee in Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna and had trouble balancing our cups on the organically rocking table.
I can now assure you that using a Hundertwasser toilet is not so challenging, though in Kawakawa you should prepare to be interrupted by sightseers with cameras.
Then watch out for trains as you cross the street; a little steam engine puffs right down the middle of the main drag.
The best way to get to Kawakawa is to drive there.
Once there, you can pee for free.
PS. In his quest to make ordinary things look interesting. Hundertwasser also designed Vienna’s incinerator – surely the most spectacular one in the world. For photos of this result of burning ambition, click here.