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Rudolf Steiner: Occult Crank or Architectural Mastermind?

Fiona Gray  

Fiona Gray (2010): Rudolf Steiner: Occult Crank or Architectural Mastermind?, Architectural Theory Review, 15:1, 43-60

This is an electronic version of an article published in Architectural Theory Review 2010 Copyright; Taylor & Francis. Architectural Theory Review is available online at: (or click here)



Wholeness through Architecture and the Arts

Report on the Architecture Steiner Conference 2013

Sebastian Tombs

One of the great things about architecture is that it makes manifest the ideas and concerns of the time - and place. The conference on 'Wholeness Through Architecture and The Arts' at Emerson College between 11 and 14 July, and the two-day workshop which preceded it, therefore had much to share and discuss.

Over 50 folk, including organizers, presenters and workshop leaders, representing some 20 nations attended and contributed to the conference, following a two-day introductory workshop. A number of leading architects who had worked recently for anthroposophical clients, or shared a broader vision of humanity, Peter Clegg, Sarah Wigglesworth - and past President of the RIBA, Sunand Prasad - added a tone of objectivity and engagement, which was most invigorating.

For Peter, wholeness most particularly referred to the relationship between architecture and the landscape (visit his North Yorkshire Sculpture Park to see his favourite) and his stunning projects, developed over the last 20 years. Sarah spoke of her work, and focused on the Masterplan for a vibrant future Emerson campus. Sunand spoke with feeling about an architecture of reductiveness and of his years as a small boy in Gandhi's ashram: the hut and compound which, throughout his life as an architect, had proved to be such a regular point of inspirational reference and spiritual deepening.

The conference managed to combine, successfully, formal presentations of architectural work and the thinking behind it, with discussion groups, practical workshops (some of which related to ongoing work at Emerson), and artistic activities (eurythmy and singing), interspersed with plenty of social time around wholesome refreshment breaks. A tour of local buildings concluded the event.

We were delighted to welcome Chris Day, who led a workshop around 'Consensus Design' - the principles of which were formulated when working at Pishwanton in Scotland with Margaret Colquhoun, who opened the conference with an uplifting introduction to wholeness, comparing the characteristic qualities of the forms of the plant, the human being, and the planet.

Espen Tharaldsen, designer of the well-known Stavanger Waldorf School, explored issues of 'walls' and boundaries - in both physical and metaphorical senses - in a keynote address, and follow up workshops. Pieter van der Ree outlined themes which will inform his forthcoming book on organic architecture.

Five legacy lectures presented the work, in a 20th century context, of Rudolf Steiner, Rex Raab, Imre Makovecz, Erik Asmussen and John Wilkes. There were opportunities to learn more of John's work at the Healing Water Institute workshops led by Ian Trousdell. Other workshops were led by Luigi Fiumara, Nic Pople and Tony Cooper. There were accompanying  exhibitions on sculpture by Gertraud Goodwin, colour work by Robert Lord, painting by Margaret Shillan and coloured glass carving by Jonathan Soper.

The overall sense was one of keen listening, quiet optimism, mutual respect and appreciation - out of which a strengthened enthusiasm was kindled to maintain the work of making sensitive and supportive architecture and environments. It was observed that the holistic approach that characterises Steiner’s architectural thoughts is a more widely recognised impulse that finds expression in a much broader interpretation of environmental wholeness (buildings, process, environment), rather than merely in the architectural form of the building. A consciousness of wholeness in us and wholeness in the environment is what connects Steiner to our time.

At the summary session special thanks were given to Sarri Tapales, Lothar Haasis and Richard Coleman for ensuring that the event happened and ran smoothly. Christian Thal-Jantzen and David Tasker also played major roles.

The organizing group are most thankful to the following organisations which assisted through funding to enable the event to take place, and to enable numbers of delegates to attend through travel grants - Sponsors: Fielden Clegg Bradley, Ramboll, Iona Stichting, ASinGB; Donors: Studio Egret West, Farrells, Roz Barr Architects and Citydesigner.

It is hoped that the momentum generated by this meeting can lead to further such events in the coming years. For those wishing to review the conference details and for further reports and contributions please regularly visit

Architecture Conference Report in The Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain Newsletter, September 2013, Vol 90 No 3



The Sum and the Parts

recollections of Sevagram and Gandhi's hut



"Walls Which Are Not Walls"

Today’s struggle between wholeness and fragmentation in architecture