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Open House London 2021: A visit to Rudolf Steiner House

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

Every September the Open House London festival invites us to celebrate the UK capital’s architectural wonders by granting the public free entry to hundreds of famous, exciting, eye-catching, intriguing, or normally closed-off spaces. One of the iconic buildings that opened its beautiful doors last weekend was the Rudolf Steiner House.

The façade's Granolithic concrete blocks is adorned with unusual, organically-shaped window frames and a round stained glass feature.
The façade's Granolithic concrete blocks is adorned with unusual, organically-shaped window frames and a round stained glass feature.

Firstly, few people know that Rudolf Steiner House, a hub for contemporary culture located right in the heart of the city is an example of organic functionalism and also London’s only (and finest) illustration of expressionist architecture.

The Auditorium features irregular fenestration
The Auditorium features irregular fenestration that replicates the same irregular angles and curves seen throughout the ground floor.

But who was Rudolf Steiner?


Considered by his peers as either a creative genius or an eccentric oddity, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, esotericist, claimed clairvoyant, and architect best known for his belief that architectural creation is a way of apprehending our place in the universe. During his lifelong attempts towards finding a synthesis between spirituality and science, he invented Anthroposophy as an esoteric system that proves the connection between spiritual and material.

Rudolf Steiner House London_Foyer floor
Foyer floor
“A man must be able to think in shapes and colours just like he is able to think in thoughts and terms.” (R. Steiner)

Other famous pioneers of anthroposophic architecture (also known as "organic architecture") were Antoni Gaudí and Frank Lloyd Wright, each being inspired by the principles of the living nature which led to free, expressive forms.

Arched Door leading to the cafe
Arched Door leading to the cafe

The expressionist architecture was striving towards the same spiritual and aesthetic ideals as Expressionists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Hans Scharoun, Bruno Taut, Hans Poelzig, Eric Mendelsohn, and Max Baer.

Rudolf Steiner House London_beautiful water feature with greenery squeezed between the ground floor and the first level of the staircase
To emphasize the organic forms, there’s a water feature with lush greenery halfway up the Steiner Staircase.

The Rudolf Steiner House in London


The Grade 2 listed house was designed by the architect Montague Wheeler (1874-1937) and built between 1926 and 1937 to serve as the home of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain. Wheeler himself was an active member of the Anthroposophical Society and between 1935 and 1937 he was the chairman of the British branch.

The powerful composition of the Theatre Hall is centred on the stage dedicated to staging performances of "Eurythmy." Theatre Hall seats and stage
The powerful composition of the Theatre Hall is centred on the stage, originally dedicated to staging performances of "Eurythmy."

As the name suggests, the Rudolf Steiner House faced in Granolithic concrete blocks was based on the work of Rudolf Steiner, with emphasis on the first Goetheanum building in Dornach, Switzerland (1914) – a remarkable wooden structure of timber that was destroyed by fire in 1922 and rebuilt from concrete. Legend says that Le Corbusier visited the construction site and “stood speechless as he surveyed the vast immanence”.

The curved Staircase
The curved Staircase

As for the expressionist features of the London house, the flowing, irregular curves and angles of the main staircase create a sensation of metamorphosis and free movement, making it a fine staple of this unique and sinuous style.

The staircase’s unusual forms and watercolored walls are a visual cue to the metaphysical ideas of Steiner's anthroposophy.
The staircase’s unusual forms and watercolored walls are a visual cue to the metaphysical ideas of Steiner's anthroposophy.

The original models of the building were shaped in clay, a life-long favourite medium of Steiner, and helped to infuse the cold concrete structure with life.

Detail of the curved, uneven staircase
Detail of the curved, uneven sculptural staircase, inspired by organic plant forms.

The Façade

The Façade’s most poignant expressionist elements are the ground floor windows and the rounded archways, making the building an almost unique sample of the symbolic expressionism widespread in German art before and after World War I.

The Open House tour guide explaining the external features of the building.
The Open House tour guide explaining the external features of the building.

The Foyer

The Foyer was modernised in 1989-90, when the handrails and the first flight of steps were also added. Besides offering a welcoming transition into the auditorium, it's often used as an exhibition space for artworks created by anthroposophically-inspired artists.

Foyer floor
Foyer floor

The Theatre

The 220-seat theatre opened in 1926 and remains to this day a vibrant performance space. The powerful composition was dedicated to staging shows of “Eurythmy”, the expression of the spirit through the physical movement of the building - an art described as "visible speech and song," developed by Steiner himself, in collaboration with Marie von Sivers.

Rudolph Steiner House was built in two parts: the hall between 1924 and 6, and the remainder from 1931 to 1932.
Rudolph Steiner House was built in two parts: the hall between 1924 and 6, and the remainder from 1931 to 1932.

The Café

The café’s main wooden enclosure is surrounded by concrete and brick, reflecting a fascinating polarity that infused a lifeless space that was once used as a fire escape with a room warmly and playfully inundated by daylight.

Rudolf Steiner House London_Rhubarb leaf ceiling above the cafe
The rhubarb leaf-shaped ceiling above the cafe illuminates a formerly "dead" part of the building with sublimely transformative daylight.

Today, Rudolf Steiner House also operates as a stunning venue with a diverse offer of spiritually oriented events, art events, workshops, and talks on the teachings of philosopher Rudolf Steiner.

The Cafe
The Cafe's wooden beams is inundated by natural light, creating the sensation of a vibrant, warm, cosy space.

Apart from the spaces mentioned above, the house is also home to a small but characterful bookshop, a roomy library, and a therapy and wellness centre.

Just like Steiner relied at the turn of the 20th century on the Goetheanum to exhibit his philosophy of Anthroposophy in Germany, Wheeler’s Steiner House in London remains a place that continues to spread this immense legacy in spirituality and science through an equally charismatic, welcoming, and enigmatic space.

Rudolf Steiner House London's sunny Eurythmy Room with abundant natural light and wooden panelled walls.
Rudolf Steiner House London's sunny Eurythmy Room with abundant natural light and wooden panelled walls.

So next time you're in Marylebone or even better, during next year's Open House London, make sure you'll stop by for a refreshing dose of mysterious architectural and sculptural fluidity.

Top floor studio with arched window features and vaulted ceiling full of character.
Top floor studio with arched window features and vaulted ceiling full of charm.

Rudolf Steiner House 📍 35 Park Rd, London NW1 6XT.

🚇 The closest London Underground Station to Rudolf Steiner House is Marylebone on the Bakerloo line (and also the Marylebone Train Station) and Baker Street (Bakerloo, Circle and Hammersmith & City, Jubilee and Metropolitan Lines).

📌 Nearby London Attractions:

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