Architecture: Steiner

Tuesday 11 Jun 2013

Richard Coleman, Chairman of WAN, reacts to one of last week’s articles

I was pleased to see WAN’s diversion to Pishwanton, Scotland and the entirely handmade Goethe Institute building last week: all a safe distance from technology! Many architects and artists who respect Steiner’s ideas do, in fact, embrace the computer and all it provides. I am quite sure Rudolf Steiner would have done so himself. He would probably have cautioned against overdose, supported a balance of activity (between art and science) and a freedom from technology in the bedroom! He would want human creativity to be assisted by technology rather than replace it.

I submit that Steiner’s own work in conceiving the two Goetheanum buildings in Dornach, Switzerland, through a clay modelling technique, would have been greatly assisted by the deployment of a laser scanner, a 3-D printer and BIM constructional methods, transferring the dimensions from his inspirational sculpted model, to the ‘drawing board’ and then to the concrete formwork. This would have saved a great deal of time.

But the part that he would consider the preserve of technology-free thinking would be the imaginative, the conceptual and the creative aspects. All rely on the world of ideas to which we all have unlimited access, compared to the limitations of Google. This is accessible only to those willing to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the great order of things; the role of mankind in relation to the nature of our world and in particular, the natural world.

The Prince of Wales has a great understanding of these things. He is sensitive to the needs of mankind and the needs of the planet. He knows that more is required of architecture, but he can’t see past traditionalism for the solution. If Quinlan Terry’s classicism is God given, then Rudolf Steiner’s creativity is sought from the spiritual world through meditative consciousness, hard work and being rooted in knowledge of the past, present and future. Indeed, if architects were unable to predict the future, to some extent, their buildings would be immediately obsolete! When Rudolf Steiner was asked by an architect how to design, he simply said ‘ask yourself what will happen.’

What is important is that architecture can be both a ‘whole’ in itself and part of a ‘greater whole’. It needs to support both physical and emotional needs; to function both during night and day; to embrace the feminine and the masculine; to relate to the earth and to the universe; to embody substance, relevance, beauty and meaning; to relate to earth, water, air and fire; to embrace the straight line and the curved line; I could go on. To bring these things into balance, harmony and dynamic in architecture is a spiritual task of making wholeness.

The conference, Architecture: Steiner, ‘Wholeness Through Architecture and the Arts’, is from 11 to 14 July at Emerson College in Sussex, England. It will consider these important ingredients with the support of a star cast. Please go to to find out more.

Richard Coleman: architect, consultant, chairman WAN, Director World Cities Network, CABE - BEE, deputy chairman Architecture Club.

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