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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Christmas Conference
GA 260
Part II. The Proceedings of the Conference

XV. The Idea of the Future Building in Dornach

31 December 1923 a.m.

My dear friends!

As you may imagine, I have recently given much thought to the idea of the building in Dornach, and the situation will most certainly necessitate the earliest possible execution of this idea of this building in Dornach.

A great many of you were present in the summer when the financing of the future Goetheanum was discussed. [Note 68] Everything that came to light then, when our friends revealed their willingness to make infinite sacrifices, and all the observations of the situation I have made since then, force me to the opinion that there is no other way but to proceed as rapidly as possible to the construction of a Goetheanum here, even if externally this Goetheanum cannot present the image we would dearly have liked to promise ourselves.

It seems to me that this Goetheanum must be erected in such a way as to make it usable as expediently as possible.

But if the idea about the building expressed at the meeting in the summer were to be realized, it would definitely not be possible to use it in a suitable way once it was finished. For is it not so that, in considering all the possibilities, we must look, might I say, through the walls, that is through the walls of the wallets of our dear friends. I know very well that what I am about to put to you will be met, out of the utmost good will, by many objections. And yet I still believe that the situation will prove me right when I say that the best way to proceed will be to plan for a Goetheanum of which the actual building costs do not exceed 3 to 3½ million Francs. Only then, even with the utmost willingness for sacrifice, shall we be in a position truly fruitfully to serve the intentions inaugurated in our new Statutes.

It would not be at all sensible if, as the Anthroposophical Society, we were to spend every last penny simply on the building itself. This would not be a good thing to do. So I do believe that the right idea would be to spend about 3 to 3½ million on the building to start with. If it is to be built in accordance with the situation as it actually is, then it must be as resistant as possible to damage such as that which unfortunately destroyed the old Goetheanum. And, as I have already pointed out in my articles in Das Goetheanum, [Note 69] it must make available as much space as possible for anthroposophical activities. So we shall have to restrict ourselves somewhat. But I believe that just because of this we can be all the more certain of achieving what was pointed out yesterday, especially on the part of the young people: that above all a spiritual Goetheanum must exist here as soon as is in any way possible.

Today I want to start by explaining the ground-plan of the Goetheanum to you and then tomorrow I shall speak more about the elevation, the facade. I want to shape the ground-plan and the whole distribution of the space to be taken up by the Goetheanum in the following way.

The Goetheanum will not be as round a building as the old Goetheanum was. It is all very well to ask why I have not brought the model to show you, my dear friends. But you must not forget that this new Goetheanum is to be built in a relatively new material, concrete. And to give a concrete building a truly artistic character in keeping with the material is exceedingly difficult; the solution to this problem is very demanding.

You know Dr Grosheintz has had a house built near here which I have attempted to design in a style appropriate to concrete. [Note 70] But though I still believe that this style might be considered satisfactory for a dwelling to a certain degree—but only to a certain degree—it would nevertheless be impossible to build a second house to exactly the same plan. In any case it certainly did not yield an architectural style for a Goetheanum built of concrete. For the new Goetheanum it will be necessary to depart—essentially—from the idea of a circular building; we shall come back not to a circular building but to one that is more rectangular, a building with angles.

You can see the intention in the small building lower down the hill that was built to provide a hall for eurythmy practice. [Note 71] It is built in a different material, but it shows that an angular building has considerable potential.

Now since there is the need to provide stages for eurythmy and the Mystery Dramas, it will be necessary to combine an angular building with a circular one. In addition, the new Goetheanum will have to provide space for the various activities. We shall need studios and we shall need lecture rooms. The single small white hall in which the fire first broke out a year ago had turned out to be quite inadequate for our purposes. So the next Goetheanum would have to be built in such a way that it would have a lower level—a ground floor—and an upper level. The upper level would, essentially, be the large auditorium for lectures and for those who come to hear and see the performances of eurythmy, the Mystery Dramas and other things. And on the lower level, beneath this auditorium, would be smaller rooms, divided off by walls, which would provide space for artistic and scientific purposes.

I also intend to create a space for the administration of the General Anthroposophical Society, so that this can be carried out direct from the Goetheanum.

In the idea of this building I also want to solve a certain problem in what seems to me a practical way. The plan will be such that there will be a stage at the rear with a rounded form. (Please don't take any notice of the proportions in this drawing.) The stage will essentially form a semi-circle. It will be enclosed by store-rooms. And then extending forwards there will be at the upper level the auditorium and at the lower level the various rooms, with a passage-way in between so that in future there will be more freedom of movement in this new Goetheanum than there was in the old. In the old Goetheanum you stepped straight inside from a vestibule at the entrance. Here, so that there can be freedom of movement, there will be a heated area in which it will be possible to meet and converse in all kinds of ways. And this passage-way will give access to the various rooms on the lower level. [See Facsimile 5, Page XVIII bottom.]

Figure 3

Then, going up a staircase, you will come to the large auditorium from which you look on to the stage or the space where lectures and other things will take place.

The practical problem I just mentioned is the following: In the old Goetheanum great inconvenience was caused by the fact that eurythmy rehearsals had to take place on the stage itself. When visitors came from elsewhere, and I hope they will continue to come in the future, they wanted to see everything; but the auditorium was needed for the work, so it was never possible to allocate time properly in a way that was needed for rehearsals and preparations for performances.

I now want to solve this problem by having on the ground floor, that is the lower level, a stage of exactly the same size as that on the upper level. The one on the upper level will serve for the actual performances while the one down below, having identical measurements, will be for rehearsals only. So there will be a room down below which can serve for all rehearsals up to the dress rehearsal, thus leaving the upper auditorium free at all times. The lower hall will have an ante-room just for those taking part in the rehearsals, where they may wait and sit down. On the upper level the stage will give straight on to the auditorium. The auditorium will be the same size as the plan of the rectangular part of the building.

In this way it will be possible to work in a practical manner in all the available space. It will not be necessary to make the new Goetheanum very much taller than the old Goetheanum, since I am not considering a new cupola. I am endeavouring to create a design for the roof which will consist of a series of planes arranged in relation to one another in a way which will, I believe, be no less aesthetically attractive than a cupola.

So we shall enter into the Goetheanum through a facade on the main front which I shall describe tomorrow. There we shall find the staircase leading to the main upper space; and we shall have a passage-way from which the different rooms are reached, and so on. There will also be entrances at the sides. By making the stage space smaller on plan than the store area, and by extending the walls forwards, we will gain space for the different rooms. At the top it will be possible to light the whole space with daylight, so that we can alternate between daylight, when it is there, and artificial light when we need it.

In this way it will be possible to have a really practical building in which every cubic foot of space can be used to the full. A great deal will be able to go on in this building all at once, whereas in the old building only one thing at a time could take place.

You must consider, my dear friends, that this is not simply intended to be an improvement—which perhaps some might consider a dis-improvement—but it is designed to take account of all the developments that have come about. I have often stressed amongst ourselves that if you want to live in reality and not in ideas, then the realities of the time must be given particular recognition. The time in which one lives is a reality. But it is difficult to generate an understanding for this time as being something real. There are still people today who represent the threefolding of the social organism with the very sentences I used to use with regard to the conditions prevailing at the time, in 1919. History is indeed advancing so rapidly just now that if someone describes things in the way they were described in 1919 this seems to be hundreds of years out of date. Thus, since things have after all been happening in the Anthroposophical Movement, you cannot build in 1924 as you did in 1913 and 1914. In 1913 and 1914 the idea of the Goetheanum arose simply out of the realization that an artistic space would have to be created for the Mystery Dramas. At that time we really only thought of the Mystery Dramas and the lectures. But much has happened since those days and I only wish that even more had happened, but I hope that quite soon a good deal more will happen even without the 75 million Francs I spoke about earlier. This must certainly be taken into consideration.

The thing that has happened since 1919 is that eurythmy has been developed. [Note 72] In 1913 it did not yet exist, it has only developed since. Therefore it cannot be maintained that what was good enough then can be good enough now. Furthermore, although I was assured at the time that the building could be executed at a cost of much less than one million German Reichs-marks, nevertheless, as you know, the cost in the end was at least seven or eight times as much. So we do not want to do our sums in the abstract this time. We want to reckon with certain quite definite figures. The building must now be executed in such a way that we can start to carry out what is contained in our Statutes as soon as possible. This can only happen if we erect it in the manner described.

Even so, it will be possible to win, from the intractable material of concrete, forms that offer something new to the artistic eye. The old forms of the Goetheanum—I shall have more to say to you about these things this evening—will have to belong to history, which means your hearts, my dear friends. Forms moulded in concrete will have to be something entirely different. Much will have to be done on the one hand to force the intractable material of concrete into forms which the eye of the human soul can follow artistically and on the other hand to mould seemingly decorative features, which are actually a consequence of the concrete itself, in an artistic and sculptural way, so that the material of concrete can for once be revealed in an artistic manner.

I ask you now to regard this idea as the seed out of which the Goetheanum shall actually emerge. I have stated that I alone am allowed to work on the artistic creation of the Goetheanum and it will not be possible to take on board to any great extent any of those offers or suggestions which have already been made—of course with the best intentions. There is no point in telling me of buildings in concrete that have been put up here or there, or of factories here or there that are working efficiently. If the Goetheanum building is to come about in concrete, it will have to emerge from an original idea, and nothing that has so far been achieved in concrete can serve as a basis for what is to come into being here.

This, my dear friends, is what I wanted to say to you today. It was not in any way intended to put a stop to the collections already set in train by our dear friend van Leer or by others representing the different countries. The sum originally envisaged will still be needed if we are to carry out what must, of necessity, be carried out. Perhaps I can spur on your zeal in this direction even more by saying that we shall try to use the money you collect in the most economical way by putting it towards anthroposophical work in the sense that it will be used for running the Goetheanum and that the Goetheanum will be built using the smallest amount possible. We shall endeavour here to bring a Goetheanum into being in the shortest possible time.

Tomorrow I shall speak about the image the Goetheanum will present to the outside, namely its facade.

I now want to return to something that is being brought to me from many sides like a kind of derivative of fear. On all sides I am being asked how the three Classes and the Sections of the School of Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum are to be handled. My dear friends, in the first place the Sections are no one's concern. The Sections are being set up for the work here. There is no need for us to discuss the Sections. They will exist in accordance with whatever is achieved. So really we can only speak about the General Anthroposophical Society as the foundation, and about the three Classes. And I believe that everything relevant is stated with absolute clarity in our Statutes. In Paragraph 5 it says: ‘Members of the Society will be admitted to the School on their own application after a period of membership to be determined by the leadership at the Goetheanum. They enter in this way the First Class of the School of Spiritual Science. Admission to the Second or Third Classes takes place when the person requesting it is deemed eligible by the leadership at the Goetheanum.’

‘Paragraph 7. The organizing of the School of Spiritual Science is, to begin with, the responsibility of Rudolf Steiner, who will appoint his collaborators and his possible successor.’

These sentences express, I believe, with absolute clarity that it is necessary to apply to me personally either in writing or in person; it would be better to start by saying in writing, since there will be too many personal applications to be dealt with on the spot. The matter will be taken from there. That is what it says here. The storm of queries is perhaps not so much the result of unclarity as of the necessity, my dear friends, to become accustomed to clarity. Perhaps unclarity is what is wanted in some quarters. Pedantry must be excluded, and bureaucracy will be banished across the border, but in everything that emanates from here—at least this is what we intend—absolute clarity shall reign. From what is written here it is clear that a little note is all that is needed. The little note should be addressed to me personally. And you will see how the answer will be given. You must have confidence.

That is what I wanted to say. Herr Hahl has asked to speak about the building of the Goetheanum. Please would you now speak.

Herr Hahl speaks on this subject.