Why get New Zealand’s tallest building tattooed on your torso? Chris Schulz meets one of the small – but growing – number of people with Sky Tower tattoos.
Leo Dashper already owns many tattoos. He’s got a lamb inked on his forearm, a dollar sign and an ampersand on his shoulders, and a “spooky little tomato with wings” on his bicep. His biggest and proudest tattoo – a giant Miffy, the rabbit from the popular Dutch children’s book series – fills up his entire back.
He’s always looking for additions. Dashper was once doodled by a colleague on a pad that was permanently embedded on his skin. The production co-ordinator’s ink collection, however, isn’t yet complete. He met his friend at Soap bar about a month back. “He said, ‘I want to do a tattoo on you,’” says Dashper. “I said, ‘Totally.’ We had a chat and decided on the Sky Tower.”
Three weeks later, he’d booked it in. Across a four-hour session, Dashper’s student friend inked the stark grey building, which turns 25 this week, across his right rib cage. He turned down his friend’s offer to add King Kong and jet planes to the top of it. “I vetoed that one,” he says. “I just wanted plain old Sky Tower.”
Even with that detail, the belief that ribs are one of the most painful areas to get a tattoo proved correct. “It was really uncomfortable and sore,” he says
He didn’t know it at the time, but Dashper’s tattoo has seen him join a club few others belong to. The Sky Tower tattoos are not something that many people want or need. Across three tattoo parlours called by The Spinoff, two said they’d never done any, and the last said they’d only done two of them – and one of those was tiny.
We could not find any other Sky Tower tattoos despite searching far and wide. One is on the forearm. It makes a brief appearance very early in. this documentary About central Auckland. Unfortunately, producers didn’t respond to requests about whose arm it belonged to.
Owner of this chest tattoo, which includes an image of the Sky Tower’s mascot Scotty, turned down the chance to talk, saying he didn’t want his parents to know he’d had the tattoo done in such a prominent place.
Even Dashper admits the building’s a bit ugly to put on your body. “It’s not the prettiest building,” he says, “but I think I’ve grown to like it. I like that it’s grey – it’s quite brutalist. My favourite’s when it rains and only half of it gets wet.”
Dashper, 26, is one year older than the Sky Tower, so he can’t remember Auckland without it. He grew up in Waterview and remembers visiting the Sky Tower’s Orbit restaurant on special occasions, back when it used to be a buffet. “It was classic buffet shit,” he says. “You have the type of food you only get at a buffet: roast veges with butter chicken sauce on top.”
Dashper now has to answer the most important question he’s ever been asked: “Why get a Sky Tower tattoo?” “It’s just a weird little central Auckland pride thing I think,” he says. “I’m around it a lot. It’s everywhere I look. It’s like yeah, get that.”
According to him, it’s a marker or a point that indicates where he is at that particular moment. He’s got other friends who get images of Aotearoa, the name of their home suburb, or their area code, tattooed on themselves.
To him, it’s exactly the same. “It’s a building that’s very there,” he says. “I see it every day. I see it when I eat dinner.” And now, he’ll also see it every time he takes his shirt off.