Everyday arts & poetry magazine

The uglier the better

Hundertwasser's toilets in Kawakawa, New Zealand. Credits Flickr / Eliduke

Hundertwasser’s toilets in Kawakawa, New Zealand. Credits Flickr / Eliduke

If the illness diagnosed is “ugliness”, the only therapy is to prescribe “beauty”. 

Wieland Schmied, Hundertwasser (Taschen, 2002)


An architecture doctor…

He despised straight lines and believed beauty had a healing effect. For ugliness was to him the source of all maladies. To cure the damage caused by architects, he had invented a new profession: an architecture doctor, a magician who believed that:

Every house, however ugly or sick, can be cured.

 …or a psycho-poet?

Since the very beginning of the series on Psycho-poetry, the name of Friedensreich Hundertwasser kept lingering on my mind. One of the psycho-poems of his I love most, is situated in New Zealand – that’s the public toilets of the small town of Kawakawa.

Rumour has it that after receiving the proposal to design a toilet block, Hundertwasser replied: “The uglier, the better.

The toilets were openen on 10 December 1999 (that was his last architectural project as he died just two months later, on 19 February 2000). For the opening ceremony, Hundertwasser had prepared a speech that was read in his absence. It’s worth giving a read:

I am very happy that I could do something for Kawakawa. It is only a toilet, but it should show that even small things can bring beauty into our life. A little more feeling brings a lot more fun.

We live only once and making money is not everything. It is harmony with beauty and harmony with nature which makes us really feel good. Beauty has an important function; beauty is always underestimated.

I am sorry I am not here today, but I hate being the centre of interest. This is why I live in New Zealand. What I did must speak for itself and not my person. 

Post Scriptum: art and beauty are same

Art historian Wieland Schmied made an interesting observation noting that art and beauty were synonims to Hundertwasser, as in the original text he had written art twice instead of beauty, and then later, had crossed the word art replacing it with beauty

Excerpt from Hundertwasser's inauguration speech for the Kawakawa public toilets. Credits Jurgita Po.Alessi, Bastart Web Magazine

Excerpt from Hundertwasser’s inauguration speech for the Kawakawa public toilets. Credits Jurgita Po.Alessi, Bastart Web Magazine


Words by Jurgita Po.Alessi
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