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Germany's Pink Powder Room Problem

DW staff (jdk)
September 28, 2005

An architectural project in the eastern city of Magdeburg faces a few last minute hurdles before its grand opening: The administrator of estate of the building's late creator has some problems with its design.

Curves, greenery, even toilets were mandatory for HundertwasserImage: Magdeburg Tourismus GmbH

It was the last project before his death in 2000: Friedensreich Hundertwasser, whose architecture has raised the eyebrows of visitors around the world, drew up the plans for the renovation of an old apartment building from communist days in the eastern German city of Magdeburg.

Like any Hundertwasser house, it will not have straight lines. The color will be pink --typically atypical for the Austrian architect.

The city's leaders, looking with great hope for something to revive the town that is languishing in the economic doldrums, are ready to present the house to the public on Oct. 3.

But Joram Harel, the administrator of Hundertwasser's estate, feels that the architect, both revered and despised by his peers, would not be pleased with some of the current features of the building which will house both apartments and businesses.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser mit Modell 1999
Friedensreich Hundertwasser holding a model of one his projectsImage: Gruener Janura AG 2004

Bathroom undesirable

One room that irritates the tastes of Harel, and in his opinion the tastes of the flamboyant Hundertwasser, is one of the least visible in any building -- the public bathroom. Hundertwasser's friend of 30 years, Harel criticized the lavatory's wall tiles.

"This (the bathroom) doesn't have anything to with Hundertwasser, that's 'kitsch'," Harel told the local newspaper Magdeburger Volksstimme.

Rosa Farbe für Hundertwasserhaus Magdeburg
The "Green Citadel" in Magdeburg clearly reveals the playful nature of HundertwasserImage: dpa - Bildfunk

Harel might have a point. After all, Hundertwasser didn't shy away from projects where people are most shy, one of the most well-known being the Kawakawa Public Toilet in New Zealand. In Magdeburg, business leaders are more pragmatic.

"The public toilet's tenant has the last word," said Ute Siebrecht of the marketing association Centrum Aqua.

Murder on the roof

More visible on the roof are some 9,000 bushes. Harel would like to see these removed also because they look too much like a garden. In other words, the human touch is too present. He would prefer that a meadow of wild flowers be planted.

Removing the shrubs with a value of over 50,000 euros ($60,000) would raise rent prices excessively according to Centrum Aqua.

"Hundertwasser certainly wouldn't have liked it if so many plants would be murdered just like that," Siebrecht said.