Toward a New Theory of Architecture
Toward a New Theory of Architecture (CW 290)
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Toward a New Theory of Architecture (CW 290)

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Illustrations: 100 B/W and Color

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Toward a New Theory of Architecture: The First Goetheanum in Pictures

An introductory lecture with slides, Bern, Switzerland, June 29, 1921 (CW 290)

“Yes, we really did try to carry out an architectural program here that was unprecedented, but it had to happen. If others hadn’t dared to do such a thing at various times, there never would have been progress in the evolution of humanity.” —Rudolf Steiner

“Scarcely a soul now remains on Earth who can have seen the startlingly original first Goetheanum building, who can have known its overwhelming beauty, who can have experienced what Rudolf Steiner called the living language of its forms. So it remains to this book to try at least to suggest what the building must have been to those who were there in the few years the building stood.” —John Kettle (from the introduction)

Rudolf Steiner gave thousands of lectures in his lifetime, usually without notes, and, with very few exceptions, with nothing more than chalk and a blackboard if he chose to accompany his speech with some kind of visual illustration. A notable exception is the presentation that constitutes the main part of this book. Given in June 1921, in Bern just eighteen months before its tragic destruction by fire, this lecture and slide show (consisting of a hundred slides) is both the closest thing we have to a guided tour of the original Goetheanum by its architect and a profound statement of artistic purpose.

In addition to the lecture and slide show that comprise the main content of this volume, the introduction by John Kettle serves to place Steiner’s artistic contribution to architecture in the context of early twentieth-century Expressionism and Organicism. Frederick Amrine’s thorough bibliographic essay highlights the most important secondary literature on Steiner’s architecture and provides a sound entry to further exploration and study.

This book is translated from the 3rd revised German edition, Das Goetheanum als Gesamtkunstwerk: Rudolf Steiner, Der Baugedanke des Goetheanum: Einleitender Vortrag mit Erklärungen zu den Lichtbildern des Goetheanum-Baues gehalten in Bern am 29. Juni 1921,Verlag am Goetheanum, 1986.

C O N T E N T S:

Introduction: “The Architecture of the Future” by John Kettle

“Goethe and Goetheanism” essay in Das Goetheanum, March 25, 1923
“The Architectural Idea of the First Goetheanum”: lecture with slides in Bern, June 29, 1921

Appendix 1: Addendum to the Discussion of Slide 7
Appendix 2: Emil Berger’s “Urachromes” of the Paintings in the Cupolas
Appendix 3: Color Drawings by van Bemmelen
Appendix 4: Bibliographic Essay by Frederick Amrine

About the Author

Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) was born in the small village of Kraljevec, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in Croatia), where he grew up. As a young man, he lived in Weimar and Berlin, where he became a well-published scientific, literary, and philosophical scholar, known especially for his work with Goethe’s scientific writings. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he began to develop his early philosophical principles into an approach to systematic research into psychological and spiritual phenomena. Formally beginning his spiritual teaching career under the auspices of the Theosophical Society, Steiner came to use the term Anthroposophy (and spiritual science) for his philosophy, spiritual research, and findings. The influence of Steiner’s multifaceted genius has led to innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, various therapies, philosophy, religious renewal, Waldorf education, education for special needs, threefold economics, biodynamic agriculture, Goethean science, architecture, and the arts of drama, speech, and eurythmy. In 1924, Rudolf Steiner founded the General Anthroposophical Society, which today has branches throughout the world. He died in Dornach, Switzerland.

Additional information

Weight 21 oz
Dimensions 7.5 × .5 × 9.5 in


Frederick Amrine


John Kettle






February 2017






CW 290

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