The Goetheanum: a building like no other

May 5, 2011, 3 Comments

Switzerland isn’t just about wonderful medieval buildings (though there are plenty of those), it also has some great examples of modern architecture. A couple of weekends ago, I went off into the countryside near Basel (armed with my GA, or train pass) to see a rather remarkable building designed by Rudolf Steiner: the Goetheanum.

Completed in 1928, it was the first large-scale building to use reinforced concrete for sculptural forms. At least that’s what it says in the brochure, which makes it sound like some sort of grim multi-storey car park. But as you can see from the slideshow above, the outside may be grey but inside the use of colour is very imaginative, particularly in the stairwell which changes from red to yellow to blue as you go up. And even more unusual is that Steiner avoided using any 90-degree angles. Just look at the detail on the roof, doors, windows and lights to see that. Or the way the pink entrance hall slopes gently upwards to soften all the angles.

The Goetheanum is home to the General Anthroposophical Society, which is as hard to understand as it is to say. As far as I can gather, it’s about spiritual enlightenment, human consciousness and cross-cultural awareness. Suffice to say that its home in Dornach is one of the most interesting places I’ve been to in Switzerland. Not only the Goetheanum itself, which is actually a concert hall, but also the cluster of equally memorable buildings around it, such as the Heizhaus, built to resemble flames and to house the boilers. And all only a tram ride from Basel.

3 Comments on "The Goetheanum: a building like no other"

  1. Rahel Thursday May 5th, 2011 at 02:30 PM · Reply

    I saw this building every day from my parents house in the neighbour village. My father even made some of the wooden furniture when he was young and still working as a carpenter… I don’t think I ever saw the Goetheanum from the inside though… maybe I should one day.

  2. Hamlet D'Arcy Friday May 6th, 2011 at 10:16 AM · Reply

    In the Hills above the town there is a (very) small cave system that you can climb into safely with a headlamp. It’s great fun to take the kids and spelunk. It sounds scarier than it is… there is really no way to get hurt beyond trying to stand up and bumping your head. Also, the butcher in Dornach is locally famous for being top quality. I forget the name, but there is a child’s ride out front in the shape of a sausage. Can’t miss it.

  3. Kerrin @ MyKugelhopf Saturday May 7th, 2011 at 12:39 AM · Reply

    very cool diccon, never heard of this building at all. and so, on to the never-ending list of places for us to go visit here in switzerland it goes… =)

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