Steiner Architecture

What is Steiner Architecture?

Unlike Anthroposophical Medicine, Biodynamic Agriculture or Waldorf / Steiner Education, “Anthroposophical Architecture” (also referred to as “Steiner Architecture” or “Waldorf/Steiner School”Architecture) is much less clearly defined and does not appear to have been able to establish itself in its own right in the same way as some of the other anthroposophic disciplines and spheres of work.

An interesting comparison could be made in the field of agriculture. Within the worldwide movement of so-called “organic” agriculture we find the much smaller field of biodynamic agriculture, which has however been able to clearly define and differentiate itself from the general organic approach and which is being represented by a number of associations in different parts of the world and being taught in many anthroposophical institutions as a method of agriculture in its own right.  The same observation could be made in the fields of education, medicine, the visual and performing arts and other areas, with the notable exception of the anthroposophical approach to architecture. The latter seems to have been happy to position itself within the larger organic architecture movement and under the rather inclusive and general umbrella of  “natural organic forms and principles”, without a clearly stated defining aim or a teachable theoretic foundation and methodology that might highlight  the anthroposophical contribution and differentiate it from the “general organic” one.

This should not be misunderstood as a criticism. On the contrary, different ideas and approaches add richness and diversity and from a professional perspective it is very helpful  to meet and gather under a wide umbrella that brings all the various organic ideas and streams “under the one roof”. On the other hand the possible downside of such a situation lies in the difficulty to find one’s “anthroposophic identity” within the larger architectural pool and at the same time spell it out clearly enough and to the extent where it could become a teachable course in anthroposophic architecture.

Whilst there have been numbers of individual attempts made in this direction, none of them appear to have been able to gain enough traction to the point where it could “coalesce” into a common approach or methodology. One of the practical consequences of this situation is that unlike in the field of Steiner Education for instance, where there are numerous training courses on offer in many countries, if an architectural student interested in the anthroposophical approach to architecture was to search on the internet for any such training courses, he or she would find quite a lot about Rudolf Steiner’s architectural impulse and numerous commentaries and books about his buildings, but surprisingly little in the way of available courses. In other words, you can study to become an anthroposophical doctor, a biodynamic farmer, a Eurhythmist or Waldorf teacher, but  you are on your own as far as training courses go if you wanted to become an anthroposophically oriented architect. Apart from participating in groups who practice artistic exercises or the occasional gatherings of anthroposophically oriented architects who decide to meet on a chosen theme, there doesn’t appear to be anything like a structured course with a clear theoretic foundation, methodology and set of aims.

An interesting curiosity that reflects this general situation lies in the fact that the Goetheanum has separate sections for Medicine, Science, Mathematics and Astronomy, Agriculture, Education and Art, but there is no separate section for Architecture. Instead, Architecture is being included in the general section for visual Art*.

* Yes, Architecture is being regarded as one of the classical Arts but unlike the fine Arts, Architecture has a strong functional component, which makes it both, an Art as well as a Science. In the same way, seen from the other side, Education could also be regarded as both, a Science as well as an Art.

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What is its historic context ?

We can only speculate but a simple “quantitative” comparison between what Steiner lectured and wrote about architecture and what he taught about medicine or education for instance is revealing. In the sphere of architecture Steiner spent most of his available time not on lecturing but on designing and building the two Goetheanums and a few other, smaller scale buildings. In other words, Steiner’s legacy to architecture is not so much to be found in his lectures or writings but in his buildings. This left us with both, a number of inspirational examples  as well as a problem.

While the first and second Goetheanums are great examples of “anthroposophical architecture” and provide a wealth of artistic inspiration, and while Steiner’s work as a whole has created  a deep and profound spiritual context and foundation, there appears to be at the same time a puzzling gap in methodology and an absence of practical and theoretical guidelines on how we are to go about creating similarly inspiring yet different structures.  Perhaps this is putting it very strongly and objections could be raised. After all we do indeed find stated holistic architectural aims and general artistic methodologies inspired by Goethean science and the principles of metamorphosis and organic wholes. Yet while these are fundamental ingredients and laudable themes of artistic endeavor and practice, they haven’t to date been enough in themselves to translate into a commonly taught methodology or course in anthroposophic architecture as such.

“How can spiritual realities be translated into physical form? Or conversely, how can earthly realities be raised into spiritually transformative forms?  What is the role and formative signature of the four Ethers and physical forces? How are we to study and work with formative forces? Wherein specifically lies the morally transformative element and how are we to incorporate it into form? What is the nature of the creative process by which the practical and the spiritual can merge into a larger whole? How can we read, recognize and create meaningful form?” On what basis can we develop a universally valid vocabulary of form? Etc. etc.

Such questions are of central relevance to the creation of spiritually meaningful forms and have to be asked as a part of any methodology or discipline in the realm of transformative architecture. Whenever such questions remain unasked or  unanswered then all we are left with is emulating, in a variety of ways, the examples we have come to study and admire, without creating anything essentially new. This is exactly the criticism that sometimes has been leveled at some of the examples of the so called “anthroposophical style” of architecture.

Yet if we disagree with the notion or desirability of an “anthroposophical style” as most anthroposophical  architects would, what then are we left with in terms of  common aims,  characteristic methodology or clearly defined design principles? As indicated above, such questions do find different answers  among individual architects, but it appears these have not  developed further into a commonly held set of concrete aims and criteria that could differentiate and define the anthroposophically oriented  approach as a teachable methodology in its own right, or as an architectural movement with a unique impulse, separate from, yet at the same time part of the larger umbrella of organic architecture.

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What is the relationship between “Biosculptural” Architecture and “Anthroposophical” or “Steiner” Architecture?

There is no individual representative or professional association of architects today who are in a position to speak on behalf of the “Anthroposophical Architectural movement” as such. As discussed in the above, the term and approach are simply too loosely defined and we seem to lack the criteria and organizational structures through which such distinctions could be made or voiced. Therefore, if a new impulse with a clear but more narrowly defined aim and an emerging methodology was to arise,  such an impulse could not presume, nor would it be possible for it, to speak on behalf of the larger movement.

What is however possible is to create its own identity within the larger movement, based on its own stated aims, principles and methodology, and this is exactly what Biosculptural Architecture has done. It has taken Rudolf Steiner’s vision of a morally transformative architecture of the future as its specific goal and has begun to verbalize and further develop a teachable methodology, language of form and theoretic basis  founded in anthroposophy and devoted to this aim. In doing so it is drawing a map of the spiritual and creative territory and field of research that lies ahead, without being prescriptive, without replacing the need for individual inspiration and creativity, and in a way that allows integration with good general architectural and environmental practice.

In other words, far from being a comprehensive system, the biosculptural perspective and method does not pretend or aspire to be an all encompassing theory or method of architecture but has narrowed down its focus to the single aim of “moral transformation” through “timeless” or “universal” Beauty. (see note* below) As such it is not competing with or trying  to become an alternative  to general good architectural practice, organic or otherwise. Instead it offers a particular context, process and method, and a particular aesthetic/geometric overlay which integrates with open-minded, good general practice, while at the same time having a substantial effect on the forms and overall feel and aesthetic impact of any design.

In this sense Biosculptural Architecture could perhaps be regarded as a particular “niche” or “specialist branch” of Anthroposophical Architecture, in the same way in which what  is loosely referred to as “Anthroposophical Architecture” could be seen as a smaller branch of the larger, and equally loosely defined  movement of “Organic Architecture”.


The central, biosculptural aim of  ”Moral Transformation” through “Universal Beauty” begs of course a number of key questions such as:

  • “What is Universal Beauty?” and

  • Why is it important?

  • “What is Moral Transformation?”

as well as related questions such as:

  • “What is the connection between architectural form and moral transformation?”

  • “How can forms become transformative?“

  • “Why and on what basis can an architectural Language of Form be “universal?”

  • Etc. etc.

Having such specific questions then becomes the bridge to a more clearly defined, and therefore teachable, methodology and approach. Some of these questions are briefly raised in different sections of this website (go to Key Concepts) but for a  more detailed discussion reference is being made to two book projects planned in the near future.

Many of the above themes are also discussed in various seminars and courses. For more details go to  current Architecture of Universal Beauty” Seminars.

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