Expatica Pattern

The Goetheanum, a building like no other

Last update on November 21, 2018

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.