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Updated: Jul 20, 2021

An eight metre tall golden cupola has been installed on top of the Hundertwasser Art Centre in Whangārei.

The 3.5 tonne cupola is decorated with gold leaf. It was made in Whangārei and barged up the Hatea River before being lifted into place on top of the soon to be completed Hundertwasser Art Centre. Cupolas have been a feature of churches and mosques in Russia, India, the Middle East and Central Asia for hundreds of years.

Chief executive Kathleen Drumm said the gold cupola was a signature feature of Hundertwasser’s architectural designs. “We are creating a unique new tourism destination for New Zealand” Ms Drumm said. “Ticket-holders will be able to walk on the roof and up to the tower where they can stand directly beneath the cupola. On the way they’ll enjoy the largest afforested roof in the southern hemisphere with over 4,000 plants.”

The gold leaf which covers the 90 square metre cupola is fine and 1000 sheets were required to cover the cupola just 1mm in thickness. Undisturbed, gold leaf is durable and could be expected to last around 100 years.

The Hundertwasser Art Centre was designed for the city by the late Austrian artist, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who lived in Northland for nearly 30 years and was a New Zealand citizen. The $33m project received $18.5m from the Provincial Growth Fund, managed by Kānoa (Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit). Whangārei District Council contributed $2.97M towards the structure.

The art centre will hold the only permanent display of Hundertwasser works outside Austria. It will also be home to the Wairau Māori Art Gallery, a national gallery dedicated to contemporary Māori art. It’s due to open in December.


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