Architectural artistic thought has hitherto been the thought of static, lifeless mechanics, but now it is beginning to become the thought of language, of inner dynamism, the thought of that which takes us by surprise.
Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner, an architect, was born in the Kingdom of Hungary, Austrian Empire, now Donji K, on 27 February 1861.
Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) began his career in 1879 at the Technical School in Vienna. In 1883 he devoted himself to the study of Goethe’s scientific writings.
His essay Goethe als Vater einer neuen Ästhetik (Goethe as the father of a new aesthetics) is fundamental to understanding his aesthetic conception: art has the task of bridging the gulf between physics and metaphysics.
In 1902, Steiner became a member of the Theosophical Society and began to work on the concrete application of his ideas.
In 1907 he designed the column capitals which he later used in the first Goetheanum. In 1908 and 1909 a model Rosicrucian temple was built in Malsch according to his instructions.
In 1911-1913 he directed the planning of the Johannesbau in Munich, which in the end could not be built due to opposition from the authorities and the Church.
In 1913, Steiner founded the Anthroposophical Society.
In the following years, the Goetheanum buildings in Dornach were to provide working space for anthroposophists.
Based on Goethe’s studies on the metamorphosis of plants, Steiner’s first Goetheanum (1913-1920) was an attempt to translate the «forms inherent in nature» into architecture.
He produced drawings and models which were implemented by a group of architects.
On a concrete pedestal stood a wooden building with two domes, which was intended to convey a sense of seclusion.
Like the mother’s womb, which for Steiner was the primordial house, the interior was to have no angles, all shapes were to be rounded.
The roof, made of Norwegian Voss slate, curves protectively over the building.
For the anthroposophists based in Dornach, Steiner planned residences such as the Duldeck House (1915-1916).
Stylistically, he adopted an intermediate attitude between the first Goetheanum and the second.
The result is excessively staged. This impression is mainly due to the solid roof, reminiscent of Gaudi’s flat houses in Barcelona.
While the first Goetheanum was still strongly influenced by Art Nouveau, Steiner’s second building of 1923, erected after the first building burnt down, was a masterpiece of Expressionism.
Steiner designed the second Goetheanum in concrete.
In his opinion that the external form should be determined by the material used, he called for a new style of concrete.
Because Steiner died before he had finished the design of the building (1924-1928), the second Goetheanum was built on the basis of a model of the exterior that the architect had made.
Monumentality is one of the characteristics of his unconventional architectural plasticity.
The mass of his buildings is also defined in such detail by the concrete domes that the changing light always presents new forms.
Steiner is considered the founder of anthroposophical architecture.
Although this doctrine has spread throughout the world in many different forms, its essential principles are Steiner’s, including the renunciation of right angles and a preference for rounded, polygonal lines and sloping surfaces, as well as a taste for handcrafted details.
In essence, anthroposophic architecture is comparable to organic architecture.
Gössel, P. (2007). The A-Z of Modern Architecture (Vol. 1). Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag.