Last updated
Goetheanum Dornach2.jpg
Switzerland adm location map.svg
Red pog.svg
General information
Town or city Dornach
Country Switzerland
Coordinates 47°29′10″N7°37′13″E / 47.48611°N 7.62028°E / 47.48611; 7.62028

The Goetheanum, located in Dornach, in the canton of Solothurn, Switzerland, is the world center for the anthroposophical movement.


The building was designed by Rudolf Steiner and named after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. [1] It includes two performance halls (1500 seats), gallery and lecture spaces, a library, a bookstore, and administrative spaces for the Anthroposophical Society; neighboring buildings house the society's research and educational facilities. Conferences focusing on themes of general interest or directed toward teachers, farmers, doctors, therapists, and other professionals are held at the center throughout the year.

The Goetheanum is open for visitors seven days a week and offers tours several times daily.

First Goetheanum

First Goetheanum First Goetheanum.jpg
First Goetheanum

The First Goetheanum, a timber and concrete structure designed by Rudolf Steiner, [2] [3] was one of seventeen buildings Steiner designed between 1908 and 1925. [4] It was intended as a Gesamtkunstwerk (the synthesis of diverse artistic media and sensory effects), infused with spiritual significance. [5] Begun in 1913 to house the annual summer theater events of the Anthroposophical Society, [6] it rapidly became the center of a small colony of spiritual seekers located in Dornach and based around Steiner. [7] Numerous visual artists contributed to the building: architects created the unusual double-dome wooden structure over a curving concrete base, stained glass windows added color into the space, painters decorated the ceiling with motifs depicting the whole of human evolution, and sculptors carved huge column bases, capitals, and architraves with images of metamorphoses. [4] [8]

Already during the construction, musicians, actors, and movement artists began performing a wide variety of pieces in a neighboring workshop. When the Goetheanum hall was completed, in 1919, these performances moved onto the stage located under the Goetheanum's smaller cupola. The auditorium was located under the larger cupola. The building was opened on September 26, 1920. [9]

This building was destroyed by fire on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1922 – January 1, 1923, and some claim by arson, [8] [10] but that is not proven. [9]

Second Goetheanum

Second Goetheanum, western front and north side at dusk Dornach - Goetheanum4.jpg
Second Goetheanum, western front and north side at dusk
Second Goetheanum, south side view Goetheanum von Suden.jpg
Second Goetheanum, south side view
Performance hall showing carved columns, stained-glass windows, and painted ceiling Dornach - Goetheanum - Grosser Saal3.jpg
Performance hall showing carved columns, stained-glass windows, and painted ceiling
The Representative of Humanity, a sculpture by Steiner and Maryon on view in the building (detail) Groupeenbois.jpg
The Representative of Humanity, a sculpture by Steiner and Maryon on view in the building (detail)
The boiler house, showing its unusual decorative chimney stack Dornach - Heizhaus1.jpg
The boiler house, showing its unusual decorative chimney stack
Octocopter flight over the Goetheanum
Aerial view of Goetheanum Aerial View - Goetheanum1.jpg
Aerial view of Goetheanum

In the course of 1923, Steiner designed a building to replace the original. This building, now known as the Second Goetheanum, was built wholly of cast concrete. [11] Begun in 1924, the building was not completed until 1928, [6] after the architect's death. It represents a pioneering use of visible concrete in architecture [12] and has been granted protected status as a Swiss national monument. [13] Art critic Michael Brennan has called the building a "true masterpiece of 20th-century expressionist architecture". [14]

The present Goetheanum houses a 1000-seat auditorium, now the center of an active artistic community incorporating performances of its in-house theater and eurythmy troupes as well as visiting performers from around the world. Full remodelings of the central auditorium took place in the mid-1950s and again in the late 1990s. The stained glass windows in the present building date from Steiner's time; the painted ceiling and sculptural columns are contemporary replications or reinterpretations of those in the First Goetheanum.

In a dedicated gallery, the building also houses a nine-meter-high wooden sculpture, The Representative of Humanity, by Edith Maryon and Rudolf Steiner. [15]

Architectural principles

Steiner's architecture is characterized by a liberation from traditional architectural constraints, especially through the departure from the right-angle as a basis for the building plan. For the first Goetheanum he achieved this in wood by employing boat builders to construct its rounded forms; for the second Goetheanum by using concrete to achieve sculptural shapes on an architectural scale. [16] The use of concrete to achieve organically expressive forms was an innovation for the times; in both buildings, Steiner sought to create forms that were spiritually expressive. [17]

Steiner suggested that he had derived the sculptural forms of the first Goetheanum from spiritual inspirations. [18]

Architects who have visited and praised the Goetheanum's architecture include Henry van de Velde, Frank Lloyd Wright, Hans Scharoun, and Frank Gehry. [19]

Steiner designed approximately 12-13 other built structures, including both institutional structures and residences in and around Dornach. [17]

Related Research Articles

Anthroposophy is a spiritual movement which was founded in the early 20th century by the esotericist Rudolf Steiner that postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world, accessible to human experience. Followers of anthroposophy aim to engage in spiritual discovery through a mode of thought independent of sensory experience. While much of anthroposophy is pseudoscientific, proponents claim to present their ideas in a manner that is verifiable by rational discourse and say that they seek precision and clarity comparable to that obtained by scientists investigating the physical world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rudolf Steiner</span> Austrian esotericist (1861–1925)

Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner was an Austrian occultist, social reformer, architect, esotericist, and claimed clairvoyant. Steiner gained initial recognition at the end of the nineteenth century as a literary critic and published works including The Philosophy of Freedom. At the beginning of the twentieth century he founded an esoteric spiritual movement, anthroposophy, with roots in German idealist philosophy and theosophy. His teachings have been described as similar to Christian Gnosticism. Many of his ideas are pseudoscientific. He was also prone to pseudohistory.

The General Anthroposophical Society is an "association of people whose will it is to nurture the life of the soul, both in the individual and in human society, on the basis of a true knowledge of the spiritual world." As an organization, it is dedicated to supporting the community of those interested in the inner path of schooling known as anthroposophy, developed by Rudolf Steiner.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Organic architecture</span> Philosophy of architecture

Organic architecture is a philosophy of architecture which promotes harmony between human habitation and the natural world. This is achieved through design approaches that aim to be sympathetic and well-integrated with a site, so buildings, furnishings, and surroundings become part of a unified, interrelated composition.

Eurythmy is an expressive movement art originated by Rudolf Steiner in conjunction with his wife, Marie, in the early 20th century. Primarily a performance art, it is also used in education, especially in Waldorf schools, and – as part of anthroposophic medicine – for claimed therapeutic purposes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marie Steiner-von Sivers</span> Baltic German actress (1867–1948)

Marie Steiner-von Sivers was a Baltic German actress, the second wife of Rudolf Steiner and one of his closest colleagues. She made a great contribution to the development of anthroposophy, particularly in her work on the renewal of the performing arts, and the editing and publishing of Rudolf Steiner's literary estate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Albert Steffen</span>

Albert Steffen was a poet, painter, dramatist, essayist, and novelist. He joined the Theosophical Society in Germany in 1910, and the Anthroposophical Society in 1912 and became its president after the death of its founder, Rudolf Steiner, in 1925. Steffen was chief editor of the society's journal, Das Goetheanum, from 1921–1963.

Sergei Olegovich Prokofieff was a Russian anthroposophist. He was the grandson of the composer Sergei Prokofiev and his first wife Lina Prokofiev, and the son of Oleg Prokofiev and his first wife Sofia Korovina. Born in Moscow, he studied fine arts and painting at the Moscow School of Art. He encountered anthroposophy in his youth, and soon made the decision to devote his life to it.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elisabeth Vreede</span> Dutch scientist

Elisabeth Vreede was a Dutch mathematician, astronomer and anthroposophist.

Marjorie Spock was an environmentalist, writer and poet, best known for her influence on Rachel Carson when the latter was writing Silent Spring. Spock was also a noted Waldorf teacher, eurythmist, biodynamic gardener and anthroposophist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edith Maryon</span> British artist (1872 – 1924)

Louisa Edith Church Maryon, better known as Edith Maryon, was an English sculptor. Along with Ita Wegman, she belonged to the innermost circle of founders of anthroposophy and those around Rudolf Steiner.

Walther Cloos was a pharmacist, alchemist, Anthroposophist, lecturer, researcher, inventor, author and pioneer in anthroposophical pharmacy.

Oskar Schmiedel was a pharmacist, anthroposophist, therapist, Goethean scientist and theosophist.

The American Eurythmy School is a four-year eurythmy training in Weed, California, near Mount Shasta. It was founded in 1984 by Karen Sherman McPherson, who studied under Ilona Schubert in the 1970s in Dornach, Switzerland, and is the second largest four-year eurythmy training in North America. The first graduation from the four-year program was held in 1990. There are many graduates of the School teaching in Waldorf schools and performing in the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jörgen Smit</span>

Jörgen Smit was a Norwegian teacher, teachers teacher, speaker and writer, mainly in the context of the Anthroposophical Society and the Waldorfschool Movement. He was the general secretary of the Norwegian Anthroposophical Society, co-founder of the Rudolf Steiner Seminar in Järna, Sweden and member of the Executive Council of the General Anthroposophical Society at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland.

Peter Selg is a German psychiatrist. He was born in Stuttgart and studied medicine in Witten-Herdecke, Zurich, and Berlin. Until 2000, he worked as the head physician of the juvenile psychiatry department of Herdecke hospital in Germany. Selg is director of the Ita Wegman Institute for Basic Research into Anthroposophy and professor of medicine at the Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences (Germany). He lectures extensively and is the author of numerous books.

George Adams Kaufmann, also George Adams and George von Kaufmann, was a British mathematician, translator and anthroposophist. He travelled widely, spoke several languages and translated many of Rudolf Steiner’s lectures into English. Through his studies in theoretical physics, he contributed to the expansion and development of the natural sciences as extended by the concepts of anthroposophy.

Rudolf Steiner wrote four plays that follow the initiation journeys of a group of fictional characters through a series of lives. These plays were intended to be modern mystery plays. Steiner outlined the plot of a fifth play to be set at the Castalian spring at Delphi, but due to the outbreak of First World War, this remained an unfulfilled project.

Frederik Willem Zeylmans van Emmichoven, was a Dutch psychiatrist and anthroposophist. From 1923 until his death in 1961 he was chairman of the Dutch Anthroposophical Society. He was a familiar figure in public life and had a considerable influence on the anthroposophic movement, particularly through his numerous lectures and his work as an author, which included the first biography of Rudolf Steiner.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anna Sokolina</span> American architect, curator and scholar (born 1956)

Anna Sokolina, PhD is an American architect, scholar, and curator, Routledge featured author, founding chair of Women in Architecture Affiliate Group of the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH), Advisory Board member of H-SHERA Network, and honorary advisor of International Archive of Women in Architecture.


  1. Sokolina, Anna P. "Biology in Architecture: the Goetheanum Case Study." In: The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture, edited by Charissa Terranova and Meredith Tromble, 52-70. New York and London: Routledge, 2016. 546p.
  2. Patrice Goulet, "Les Temps Modernes?", L'Architecture D'Aujourd'hui, Dec. 1982, pp. 8-17.
  3. Goetheanum I in The Great Buildings Collection, compiled by ArchitectureWeek. Great buildings online listing
  4. 1 2 David Adams, "Rudolf Steiner's First Goetheanum as an Illustration of Organic Functionalism", The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 51(2), 182-204, June 1992. Abstract
  5. Eugene Santomasso, Origins and Aims of German Expressionist Architecture: An essay into the expressionist frame of mind in Germany, especially as typified in the work of Rudolf Steiner, Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1973, AAT 7616368. Dissertation extract Archived 2007-12-14 at the Wayback Machine
  6. 1 2 Beate Steinberg, Sculptural Architecture: Rudolf Steiner's Goetheanum at Dornach, from wood to concrete, Master's thesis, California State University, 1976, AAT 1308149.
  7. Anna Sokolina, ed., co-author, Architecture and Anthroposophy, "Part One: Origins", "Part Two: New Impulses", 1st and 2nd edition, M: KMK, 2001, 2010. 268p. 348 ills. 2001 ISBN   587317-0746, 2010 ISBN   587317-6604.
  8. 1 2 Bernadette (Becky) Schwarz, A Study of Rudolf Steiner's First Goetheanum, M.A. thesis, Michigan State University, 1983.
  9. 1 2 Paull, John (2020). The First Goetheanum: A Centenary for Organic Architecture, Journal of Fine Arts. 3 (2): 1-11
  10. "Home of Theosophy Burns", The New York Times, Jan 2, 1923.
  11. Sokolina, Anna P. "The Goetheanum Culture in Modern Architecture." [Kultura Geteanuma v sovremennoi architecture.] Science, Education and Experimental Design [Nauka, obrazovaniie i eksperimental'noie proiektirovaniie. Trudy MARKHI], edited by Shvidkovsky D.O., G.V. Yesaulov, et al., 157-159. Moscow: MARKHI, 2014. 536p.
  12. Dornach in German , French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland .
  13. Hans Hasler, "A sculptural expression of harmony", Architects' Journal , S9(3), March 4, 1999.
  14. Michael Brennan, Rudolf Steiner, artnet Magazine 3/18/98
  15. Paull, John (2018) A Portrait of Edith Maryon: Artist and Anthroposophist, Journal of Fine Arts, 1(2):8-15.
  16. Richard Reid, The book of buildings: Ancient, medieval, Renaissance & modern architecture of North America & Europe, ISBN   0-442-27805-5. Chapter title "Modern Architecture", subsection "Switzerland".
  17. 1 2 Werner Blaser, Nature in Buildings: Rudolf Steiner in Dornach 1913-1925, ISBN   3-7643-6541-2
  18. Rudolf Steiner, Ways to a New Style in Architecture, five lectures given at Dornach, Switzerland during the building of the First Goetheanum, 1914. Also published as Architecture as a Synthesis of the Arts, 1999, ISBN   1-85584-057-X
  19. Reinhold Johann Fäth, Rudolf Steiner Design – Spiritueller Funktionalismus Kunst, Diss. University of Konstanz (2004) (as PDF Archived 2005-05-23 at the Wayback Machine )