The future of Friedensreich Hundertwasser's last unbuilt work -- a proposed Art Center for Whangarei, New Zealand -- hangs in the balance and will be decided next week by a referendum. The center, backed by the Proper Northland Trust (PNT), was originally designed in 1993 by Hundertwasser to repurpose a waterfront government building, but was never completed.
Hundertwasser, an Austrian artist and architect who lived on and off in New Zealand from the 1970s until his death in 2000, centered his designs on colorful, organic forms, and the relationship between art and nature, as well as the practice of sustainable building.
In 2006, the Whangarei District Council (WDC) purchased the building in hopes of restarting Hundertwasser's project, and in 2008 acquired the original drawings and concept work from the Hundertwasser Non-Profit Foundation. The Foundation also brought in architect Heinz Springmann, who has worked on Hundertwasser projects in the past, to create plans for the center based on the original drawings.
In 2014, the project was close to approval, but after heated debates in the WDC, it was decided that a referendum should instead decide the fate of the building. The referendum, open until the 6th of June, lets voters decide if the building will be converted into the Hundertwasser Art Center, a Maritime Museum, or demolished and turned into an open grass space.
While the art center could become Hundertwasser's last building, as well as a hub for the local Maori culture, the project’s cost of about $13 million leaves many voters wary. The WDC has committed $8 million to the project, leaving $5 million to be raised via public and private donations, which the PNT is confident can be achieved.
The art center itself, according to plans described by the PNT on its campaign website, would “span two levels and include two galleries, a learning center, a theater, café, and a shop. It will feature state-of-the-art exhibition spaces, a main gallery of Hundertwasser’s work on the top floor and a contemporary Maori Art Gallery on the ground level.” The structure would also feature a large public outdoor area and sculpture garden.
Learn more about the project in the Whangarei District Council’s video below.