Along the main highway north from Auckland, a strange boat embedded in a hillside raises its bow to the traffic that passes through Kaiwaka, advertising Eutopia: organic café, books, art, inspiration. This strange enterprise is the inspired work of Peter Harris, who began constructing the ferro-cement building in 1990 and is constantly adding on more rooms, spires and embellishments.

I remember hearing about Café Eutopia from a friend who particularly recommended the coffee served there, although I can’t remember who told me about it or the circumstances in which it happened. But the conversation had stuck enough in my mind that I recognised the café immediately when we saw it on our trip north. We drove into the parking lot, but the facility was closed so we decided to make it a stop on our next trip south, which was today.

Café Eutopia, August 2011
Café Eutopia's ferro-cement style is so distinctive and lends itself to organic shapes. We were immediately attracted to the exterior of the building with its ship-like construction and golden roofs.

Café Eutopia, August 2011
A large seagull perches over the main entrance to the building to welcome visitors.

Café Eutopia, August 2011
The café kitchen operates from a small, domed room which serves to the courtyard. From there, customers may choose to take their drinks and meals to any of the adjoining rooms or out the back to the garden.

Café Eutopia, August 2011
Delaney was captivated by the koi in the fountain and pond in the centre of the courtyard.

Inside, we browsed the menu which is quite vegetarian-friendly, but opted only to purchase some juice drinks and prepare our own meal in the truck. We took turns exploring the labyrinth of little rooms — some were put aside as reading rooms and featured timber bookshelves with secondhand tomes for sale. A large, circular room at the back was labelled “The Warm Room” and was roofed with a huge canvas, providing a greenhouse atmosphere which is just the right temperature in the middle of winter.

Café Eutopia, August 2011
Reinforcing pillars are moulded into fantastic sculptures, and the doors to reading or coffee rooms are inlaid with intricate glasswork.

Café Eutopia, August 2011
Coloured glass beads decorate portholes, allowing rainbows of light to shine through the walls.

Café Eutopia, August 2011
Three well-labelled small doors at the side of the building lead to storerooms and the toilets.

Café Eutopia, August 2011
A reading room is beautifully thought-out with fine woodwork and soft furnishings and offers an eclectic mixture of books for sale.

Café Eutopia, August 2011
In the Warm Room, a large butterfly and chrysalis hang as decoration from the ceiling.

Café Eutopia, August 2011
We bought a lovely fresh juice to share and opted to sit in the Warm Room. The girls have acquired a taste for these fresh juices — something that I'm happy to encourage.

Café Eutopia, August 2011
Dell was happy to sit in the retro timber high-chair, beautifully painted but quite unstable.

Playing outside Café Eutopia, August 2011
After we finished our drinks, we moved outside where a tiny playhouse provided hours of fun for the girls.

Playing outside Café Eutopia, August 2011
Today was the first time that I realised 19-month-old Delaney can climb ladders. She had so much fun navigating this little ladder and zipping down the slide on the other side.

Café Eutopia’s ferro-cement construction and Dr-Suess-like curves reminds us all of Clinton up at Fern Flat. Aisha asked if Clinton had built this building, and David can see design similarities with the famous Kawakawa toilets whose designer was surely an inspiration to Eutopia’s visionary Peter Harris. We’re delighted to have seen more of this building style and are happy to encourage the creative people who build from their dreams!