Hundertwasser Wairau Māori Arts Centre Intensive Green Roof

Name of case study

Hundertwasser Wairau Māori Arts Centre Intensive Green Roof


Whāngārei, Aotearoa New Zealand


Initial concept design 1992, construction began 2018, completion in 2022



Area / size


NbS employed

Intensive Biodiverse Green Roof

Type of NbS

Hybrid living/engineered


Whāngārei Art Museum Trust


$33 million for total new build of the Art Centre


The green roof construction was part of a much larger new museum and art centre project. $NZ18.5 million in funding was received from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund, managed by Kānoa (Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit). Northland Regional Council contributed $NZ1.5 million. As a result of a referendum in 2015, Whāngārei District Council provided $NZ2.97 million towards the cost of earthquake strengthening. Community funds of $NZ10 million were raised from Lotteries, Foundation North, and Oxford Sports Trust. Funds were also raised from private and public donations (Landscape Architecture Aotearoa, 2022). 

Design group

  • Concept design: Friedensreich Hundertwasser
  • Living Roof designers: Zoë Avery & Renée Davies, 4Sight Consulting
  • Architect: Grant Harris, HB Architecture
  • Design input & oversight: The Hundertwasser Non-Profit Foundation and Springmann Architecture
Hundertwasser Wairau Māori Arts Centre in Whāngārei. Photo by Greg Hay
Hundertwasser Wairau Māori Arts Centre green roof. Photo by 100% Pure New Zealand.
Climate change benefits


  • Biomass cover loss
  • Increased temperatures
  • Indirect health, social, cultural climate change impacts
  • Loss of food production
  • Loss of other ecosystem services
  • Reduced air quality
  • Urban heat island effect
Societal / socio-cultural benefits
  • Biodiversity health and conservation
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Economic and social development
  • Energy security
  • Human physical health and wellbeing
Ecological benefits
  • Habitat creation and provision
  • Reforestation
  • Aesthetic value / artistic inspiration
  • Creation of a sense of place
  • Pollination
  • Purification (of water, soil, air)
  • Recreation and tourism
  • Relaxation and psychological well being

Summary of case study

The vision for Hundertwasser Wairau Māori Arts Centre’s intensive green roof was to return this once-vegetated land back to nature, with a specific focus of native revegetation. In place of a conventional roof, the rooftop surface of the new building offers a semi-urban ngāhere (forest) using New Zealand native, Northland-specific plants, including offshore island, threatened, and endangered or rare species, many of which were sourced from a Tutukaka nursery.  Planted amongst the native flora are fruit trees which visitors are invited to pick from (Avery, 2019).

Vegetation planted beneath the trees allows plants to self-seed and germinate. The earth layer (substrate) uses locally sourced pumice (lightweight and porous volcanic rock), zeolite, and organic matter as its base. Flora planted among the substrate blur the line between path and plant, creating a permeable ground condition integral for mitigating stormwater runoff at source. The planting plan maximises the roof’s footprint for biomass cover. The outcome has provided Whāngarei with a roof dedicated to native flora and in turn to the hauora (health) of the surrounding environment. This Indigenous planting project reflects the programme of the centre which is the first public Māori art gallery solely dedicated to profiling Māori artists and curators. (Landscape architecture Aotearoa, 2022).

The roof provides a vibrant and interactive recreational green space, enhancing opportunities for contact with nature, fundamental to human well-being. The roof softens the surrounding grey infrastructure of the city,  aids stormwater management, and provides Whāngarei with ‘sponge’ features to adapt to some of the impacts of climate change. The green roof conserves energy by insulating the galleries below and also prolongs the roof’s longevity. 

The project employed over 500 people, including local horticulturalists, gardeners, architects, designers, project managers and builders, and significantly contributed to the Whāngārei economy through the COVID-19 pandemic (Landscape Architecture Aotearoa, 2022). The unique aesthetic value that the intensive green roof adds to the arts centre is predicted to significantly increase tourist activity in the area, supporting the local economy. 

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Further resources

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