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Harris Butt Architecture Ltd (Architect/Designer), Scope - Total Project Partners (Client Project Manager), Trigg Construction (Construction Company)
Whangarei Arts Museum Trust
This art centre is quite literally a piece of art itself. It has been built to represent Hundertwasser's philosophical standpoint, which is to be in harmony with nature. The building is an artwork dedicated to his teachings and is based on sketches prepared by Hundertwasser himself in 1993. It will be home to about $16 million worth of Hundertwasser's works - the only permanent collection outside of Vienna - as well as the Wairau gallery, the world's first gallery dedicated solely to contemporary Maori art. The building was tightly managed by The Hundertwasser Foundation to ensure it followed his precise guidelines.
This is arguably New Zealand’s biggest community driven project with an estimated 50,000+ hours put in by volunteers – some volunteering fulltime. It was picked up by the Prosper Northland Trust which ran the fundraising and building consent process over 3 years.
As the project moved forward, the team needed to stay nimble in their approach and overcome hurdles with greater levels of innovation. All challenges were worked through with the design and construction team together with the client, in a collaborative way.
This Art Centre has been 30 years in the making and is most impressive. There was extreme dedication from a group of local volunteers who pursued the dream of this unique build through many years of setbacks. In the end they emerged victorious.
Absolute rationalism, geometric straight lines and the uniformity of modern architecture is abandoned in favour of new values like uniqueness, romanticism, individuality, creativity, especially creativity in harmony with nature. In keeping with his philosophy, the Hundertwasser Art Centre restores territories to nature with spontaneous vegetation, tree tenants and an afforested roof.
It was a challenge creating something so contrary to all the training of many of the craftspeople involved. They were required to adhere to Hundertwasser’s quirky vision, which is guarded by his foundation in Vienna.
The local tradespeople rose to the challenge and were also able to exercise their own creative ideas within the constraints of the overall design, adding many delightful touches. The result is something that Whangarei, and New Zealand, can be incredibly proud of for generations to come.