The Most Beautiful Public Toilets in the World

Gillies Street looks pretty much like the main street of most small towns in Northland, New Zealand. It’s home to a hotel, a butchery, a food market and a few cafes and restaurants. But in the middle of this street is also a quite remarkable combination of public service and art.

Entrance to the toilet block on Gillies Street

Austrian architect and ecologist, Friedrich Hundertwasser moved to the Northland town of Kawakawa in the 1970s. He was reclusive and living on a farm there when he was invited to design and build the public toilets on the main street in 1997. Today the completed project remains as a testament to his talent, a fully functioning toilet block with unique aesthetic appeal.

The door to the ladies' toilets

Hundertwasser made use of local talent and labour in the construction of these toilets. Bricks from local buildings and tiles created by Kawakawa students were used in its creation. Windows were formed from recycled bottles from the district. Colourful ceramic columns support an arched roof, inviting you in off the street to use the facilities.

There are few other reasons for travellers to stop in Kawakawa other than these toilets, but they have infused an artistic vibrancy into this country setting. Gift shops feature Hundertwasser prints and the local museum has a display honouring the artist. On the day we visited the toilet block was crowded with tourists and locals taking photographs and making use of this attractive utilitarian work of art. It was Hundertwasser’s way of giving back to the community that was his home for the latter part of his life. He lived there without electricity from1973 until 2000, when he passed away.

Detail of the ceramic supports and recycled bottles set in the wall

The men's urinals

Hallway to the bathroom stalls

Passageway to the rear of the public toilet block

The rear entrance to the Kawakawa public toilet block

Admission to the toilets is free and they are fully functioning.

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12 years ago

These are great, aren’t they? My partner and I stopped there on our road trip through Northland. It’s the first time I used the word beautiful to describe public restrooms 🙂

Reply to  Christina

Haha, yes, definitely one of my favourite experiences in that department. I loved how well-maintained they were – the community really takes pride in them. When we were there we saw a note in the bathroom addressed to someone who had been vandalising the toilets…I was acutally surprised by how nice the note was – something along the lines of “We know who you are and if this stops now we won’t take any further action.” Kiwis are too friendly!

12 years ago

Great post thanks! This is a very public toilet in south west Tasmania that I thought may amuse you. May not be artistic BUT the surrounding walls are special. Sorry it is a very old post on our blog and the format is a bit rubbishy……..

Reply to  frank_in_oz

Haha – wow, that one is just right out there isn’t it? Guess it’s better than a bush or tree =) We LOVE Tassie, bu the way. Would love to get to the south west – we’ve only really trekked in Cradle Mountain.

12 years ago

Very crazy bathroom! Felt like I had tunnel vision o.o 😛

12 years ago

fancy toilets – right up my alley. Love this post. Made me smile.

12 years ago

I’ve been to the Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna last year, I blogged about it But I’ve not been inside the building, although I’ve seen pics, I must say yours are pretty impressive. I imagine being wasted and going to these urinals, haha. Must be a unique experience 😉

We were dead sober at 11a.m. But you’re right…would be hysterical drunk. We’ll have to check out the museum in Vienna later this year. I’m curious to know more about Hundertwasser after reading a little about his later years in N.Z.

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