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The roof is covered with earth and grass. Hundreds of plants can be found throughout the house and trees are sprouting from the windows. Each has about one square metre of soil and they stand by the window, usually leaning out. Hundertwasser called them “tree tenants”. Many decades before academic studies showed that patients benefit from a view of nature, Hundertwasser worked tirelessly to integrate plants and trees into our buildings.

The trees release oxygen and “improve the city climate and the wellbeing of dwellers,” he said. “Tree tenants act like vacuum cleaners. More so. They swallow even the finest and poisonous dust.” They reduce noise, and the echoes of the city. They give shade in summer, but let sunlight through in winter when their leaves have fallen. “Butterflies and birds come back. Beauty and joy of life comes back.” With Hundertwasser’s houses and paintings, it may seem as if he’s tripping, but he’s just profoundly right.

Most people would recognise his houses from the mass-produced prints and posters that brought him fame and wealth, after a youth of sewing his own clothes out of scraps and using leftover paints. By the time he finished the Hundertwasserhaus block of flats in Vienna in 1985, he declined to take payment for it, declaring that it was worth the investment to “prevent something ugly from going up in its place”.

One of his most impressive creations is a spa resort near the town of Bad Blumau in Austria. Curved houses are built into the rolling hills, so that it’s hard to tell where architecture ends and nature begins. None of the 2,400 windows is the same. Hot springs provide heat and generate power for the resort.

Aiming to create a synergy between people, their environment and architecture, Hundertwasser invented a biological water-purification toilet and argued that if we were more connected to our waste, we would be less scared of death. In speeches he often gave in the nude, he condemned the enslavement of people by the sterile grid system of conventional architecture.

Hundertwasser suggested that every person in a rented flat should have a “window right”. That is, everyone should be able to lean out of his or her window, take a long brush and paint the outside wall for as far their arm can reach. In a world where every person was in charge of his or her window, the broken window theory would be superfluous.

“Paradise cannot be found,” he argued. “It can only be created. With one’s own creativity, in harmony with nature.”  

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December 20th, 2018
9:12 PM
It is customary, when elaborating on the delivery of enough shelter for the population, to ignore any factors exacerbating the apparent shortfall. To nitpick, the Chancellor is, in reality, one Mark Serwotka t/a Philip Hammond and is very happy with life as a socialist votary.

December 6th, 2018
8:12 AM
Wonderful. If only our housing market was free of the big builders and nimbys and we could revitalise our home-owning democracy.

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