Vitra Design Museum: Rudolf Steiner – Alchemy of the Everyday Exhibition

Vitra Design Museum: Rudolf Steiner – Alchemy of the Everyday Exhibition
© Rudolf Steiner Archiv

The exhibition “Rudolf Steiner – Alchemy of the Everyday” demonstrates that design is linked with many other topics of great relevance to society: from art and architecture, natural sciences and technology up to questions of ethics and spirituality. To this day, the practical implications of this broadly conceived understanding of design have an especially strong presence in the Basel region, which served as the centre of Steiner’s life and work over many years. The Vitra Design Museum embraced this local connection as an opportunity to develop an extensive supporting programme for the “Rudolf Steiner – Alchemy of the Everyday” exhibition. It offers a chance to retrace Steiner’s footsteps in the region, take a good look at his contributions, voice criticism and seek connections to the design and architecture of the present. More information on the event after the break.

Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925) was one of the most influential – and also one of the most controversial – reformers of the twentieth century. He founded the Waldorf schools, inspired artists such as Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky and Joseph Beuys and is regarded as one of the key initiators of organic architecture. In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Steiner’s birth, the Vitra Design Museum is now presenting the first major retrospective on his oeuvre. The exhibition is accompanied by a supporting program of activities and events unparalleled in the history of the museum. It explores Steiner’s influence in design, art and society, but also traces the impact of Steiner’s work in the Basel region, which remains home to the leading international centre of the anthroposophical movement founded by Steiner.

© Vitra Design Museum; Photo: Thomas Dix

Steiner created his most important work of architecture just 15 kilometres from the Vitra Design Museum in Dornach, Switzerland: the Goetheanum built from 1924 to 1928. It still ranks as an architectural milestone, marking the first use of concrete to construct a sculpturally formed edifice of such imposing size. Yet Steiner’s horizons went far beyond architecture and design. Trained as a scientist and philosopher, Steiner advocated a holistic view of humanity and gave over 5,000 lectures espousing the worldview of anthroposophy in which art, science and spirituality are united. Hundreds of clinics, bank institutes, farms and Waldorf schools bear witness to the wide dissemination of Steiner’s ideas. Many aspects have long established themselves in the social mainstream – including biocosmetics, a heightened environmental consciousness and biodynamic agricultural products, to name a few examples.

© Kunstsammlung Goetheanum

To illustrate the diversity of Steiner’s work, the Vitra Design Museum has assembled a wealth of artifacts, encompassing 45 pieces of furniture, 46 models, 18 sculptures, over 100 original drawings and plans, as well as dozens of additional documents ranging from posters to letters written to Steiner by Franz Kafka, Piet Mondrian, and Else Lasker-Schüler. Early Expressionist films and works by Wassily Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger, Erich Mendelsohn, Bruno Taut and Frank Lloyd Wright illustrate the vital reciprocal influence between Steiner and notable contemporaries. The connection between Steiner and contemporary designers is also documented, such as with works by Olafur Eliasson, Konstantin Grcic and Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec.

© Private Collection; Photo: Andreas Sütterlin

In the exhibition, visitors are introduced to Steiner in the context of his own time period, showing how Steiner was influenced by Art Nouveau as well as Cubism and Expressionism and the various Lebensreform movements of the early twentieth century. The criticism Steiner has received over the years is also addressed – whether in connection with his views on human development or his pedagogy. The second section of the exhibition demonstrates how Steiner distilled a completely new everyday aesthetic from the many influences of his time. Goethe served as a source of ideas for Steiner’s theories on colour symbolism and metamorphosis, from which he developed a new organic aesthetic in architecture and design. These influences came together in furniture and buildings with characteristic crystalline and curving forms, often exhibiting remarkable parallels to the creations of present-day designers. In the third section, the exhibition shows how Steiner implemented his thoughts on reform in practical applications – from medicine and education up to the expressive movement-based art of eurythmy and complex geometric models. Among the highlights of the exhibition are two polygonal color chambers designed by Steiner in 1913, which are reconstructed as walk-in models especially for this exhibition.

© Rudolf Steiner Archiv

For more information, please visit here.

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Cite: Alison Furuto. "Vitra Design Museum: Rudolf Steiner – Alchemy of the Everyday Exhibition" 01 Nov 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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