Every so often I see something so ugly that it is actually beautiful… This Government building in Whanganui is a case in point.  Initially I only saw the ugliness, then I looked closer, saw the angles, the vegetation, the colours on the concrete – and was fascinated.  I see the current occupants are moving out soon, and wonder what its fate will be.


Way back in 1993 Friedensreich Hundertwasser was invited by the then Mayor of Whangarei to design an art center for the city.  He chose the former Northland Harbour Board building and made a number of visits to study the building and sketch his ideas.  The project was revived in 2008 when the Whangarei District Council bought the building and two members traveled to Vienna to gain the support of the Hundertwasser Non-profit Foundation.

The Foundation not only retrieved the artist’s original drawings and architectural concepts from its archive, but also persuaded Heinz Springmann to produce plans for the Council which faithfully captured the artist’s vision.


Hundertwasser became closely attuned to Māori during his life time, and the concept of a gallery for exhibiting Māori art was included in his final design for a cultural center.

Surprisingly, the Whangarei District Council decided to withdraw their support for the Center in mid 2014, and a strong group of local citizens are now fighting to have it re-established.  For more information on this go to

And if you live in or near Whangarei and want to support this project, visit the display in the city – see the signpost below.