Diccon Bewes: The Goetheanum, a building like no other

Comments0 comments

You won't find a single 90-degree angle in Switzerland's architectural marvel, The Goetheanum, located a train ride from Basel.

Switzerland isn’t just about wonderful medieval buildings – though there are plenty of those – but also it has some great examples of modern architecture. I went off into the countryside near Basel (armed with my Swiss train pass) to see a rather remarkable building designed by Rudolf Steiner: the Goetheanum.

Completed in 1928, it was the first large-scale building to use reinforced concrete for sculptural forms. At least that’s what it says in the brochure, which makes it sound like some sort of grim multi-storey car park.

But as you can see, the outside may be grey but inside the use of colour is very imaginative, particularly in the stairwell which changes from red to yellow to blue as you go up (see image above). Even more unusual is that Steiner avoided using any 90-degree angles. You can look at the detail on the roof, doors, windows and lights to see that, or the way the pink entrance hall slopes gently upwards to soften all the angles.


The Goetheanum is home to the General Anthroposophical Society, which is as hard to understand as it is to say. As far as I can gather, it’s about spiritual enlightenment, human consciousness and cross-cultural awareness.

Suffice to say that its home in Dornach is one of the most interesting places I’ve been to in Switzerland. Not only the Goetheanum itself, which is actually a concert hall, but also the cluster of equally memorable buildings around it, such as the Heizhaus, built to resemble flames and to house the boilers.

All this is only a tram ride from Basel.


Reprinted with permission of Diccon Bewes.

Diccon grew up in Britain but now lives in Bern. He has spent more than seven years grappling with German grammar, overcoming his innate desire to form an orderly queue and exploring parts of Switzerland he never knew existed. And eating lots of chocolate. He is the author of the bestselling book 'Swiss Watching'.


Comment here on the article, or if you have a suggestion to improve this article, please click here.

If you believe any of the information on this page is incorrect or out-of-date, please let us know. Expatica makes every effort to ensure its articles are as comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date as possible, but we're also grateful for any help! (If you want to contact Expatica for any other reason, please follow the instructions on this website's contact page.)

Captcha Note: Characters are case sensitive
The details you provide on this page will not be used to send any unsolicited e-mail, and will not be sold to a third party. Privacy policy .

0 Comments To This Article