Tour of Goetheanum

14 Jun. 2012

Thirty people joined our MIT Club outing on July 14 which took us to Basel for a visit to the Swiss Architectural Museum (SAM) followed by a visit to the Rudolph Steiner (1861 – 1925) designed Goetheanum in nearby Dornach. The trip was well organized by Norm Mazer (PhD ’78). We were fortunate to have special guides to the history and philosophy behind the Goetheanum from Linda and Steven Thomas.

The exhibit at the Swiss Architectural Museum featured an overview of the original Goetheanum, a special-purpose building dedicated to theatrical performances of the Anthroposophical Society, an institution that grew from teachings of Rudolph Steiner, an Austrian-born philosopher, architect, artist, and teacher. Steiner was a prolific author and lecturer, producing more than 40 volumes of written work, and 6000 lectures. Steiner is probably best known today for his impact on education (Waldorf schools) and agriculture (biodynamic farming, particularly wine), although his influence extends to music, and medicine as well.

The Goetheanum building was constructed in the early 1900s (construction was interrupted by the first world war) and opened in 1920. It was destroyed by arson on New Year’s Eve, 1922-23. Hence the SAM exhibit was given over to photographs and detailed text explanations of the building’s history, structure and functions.

Following the fire, a new Goetheanum was built of reinforced concrete in Dornach, just outside Basel beginning in the late 1920s. The massive building shell was completed in 1928, and over the following 70 years interior finish and furnishings were added. This building is today the home of the School of Spiritual Science and Anthroposophical Society.

The interior spaces are quite remarkable; growing in an organic way from a solid, square foundation, to rather airy, sculptural vaulted rooms as one moves higher within the building.

The beautiful summer day ended with a visit to a local pizza palace for a pleasant evening meal.

Howard Klee