I’m not too good with names.  Or faces, for that matter.  For me to remember your name, you’d better have me over for dinner or actually be my friend or my relative.  I’d have been hopeless in Victorian society.
There’s one name, though, that keeps popping up so often that even I can't forget it.

Early Childhood Learning

The first time I noticed Rudolf Steiner’s name was in reference to a local Waldorf preschool that I was considering for my children.  I didn’t know much about Waldorf*, other than that it reminded me of the Montessori approach: very hands-on and practical skills based.
Ruldolf Steiner circa 1905
Image courtesy of Wikimedia.
Looks like Jeremy Irons.

A little research yielded a Waldorf sample schedule for Kindergarten aged children:

8:00         household chores
8:30         morning walk
10:00 snack time, classroom time & story
10:45 creative play or project based on the story
12:00 lunch preparation and lunch
1:00         rest time
2:00         outdoor or indoor play
3:30         craft activity or painting
4:30         read aloud followed by supper preparation

Forget preschool, this is a great schedule for meeeeee!

Steiner believed that learning in early childhood is largely experiential, imitative and sensory-based.
*Note: the name Waldorf comes from the company in Stuttgart for whom Steiner’s first school was built.

Emphasis seemed to be placed on

experiencing fewer things more deeply (or for longer)
keeping focused learning in the morning
allowing a flexible schedule
involving children in chores
using snack time to teach food preparation and thanksgiving
storytelling (not just reading), singing, poetry, music

Most of Steiner's philosophy about education was outlined in "Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy" way back in 1909.

In the Light of Anthropowho?

The next time I ran across Steiner was in an old copy of the Journal of Healthcare Design (Volume VIII).  You know, a periodical that architecture geeks read when they want to design a hospital…

Waldorf School, China
Image courtesy of ☼ うみ 目覚めたら via Flickr.
Anyway, there were two articles on “New Design Technologies,” one being called Healing Architecture—A Case Study of the
Vidarkliniken.  The article is the result of seven years of research on the architecture of Erik Asmussen in Järna, Sweden, completed in 1988.
The Järna buildings are part of the Rudolf Steiner Seminar, a “small anthroposophical college.”  There it is again.

Waldorf School, Santa Fe
Image courtesy of BDUngard via Flickr.
The design process took 20 years and involved collaboration with artists, doctors, and therapists of every kind.   I’m having a bit of difficulty describing what kind of place it is.  It is not a hospital, with its sterile doctor-centered environment.  It is not a spa, with overpriced mud treatments and indulgences.  It’s something between a retreat and a rehabilitation facility, or perhaps neither of those.  It’s a place of healing.  The idea is to reestablish the balance of the body, soul, and spirit.
What kind of a building can you do that in?
(exterior pictures here.... and though I could do without all the Miami Beach pink, I am intrigued by the principles.)

First of all, every room has a a view.  There are no straight cell walls, but gently curving and embracing shapes.  Color and texture are apparent on every wall and daylight moves slowly across the interior spaces touching each surface.

I first read about the Vidarkliniken (Vidar Clinic) while in hospital.  As a patient, I was completely disoriented.  I’d been brought into the room unconscious; and, though there was a window, its placement meant that I could not see out.  The air was stale and chemical and the fluorescent lights buzzed and flickered.  There was constant noise, even in the middle of the night and the nurses seemed to think it was more important to comfort themselves by waking me up to check my vitals than to let me sleep.  I wanted to be in Järna for recovery, if not for orthopedics.

Healing Architecture

I'm intrigued with a concept of architecture that can be healing.  Hospitals, long- and short-term rehab facilities, birth centers, assisted living facilities, spas, retreats... these all need to be healing to the body and uplifting to the spirit.

The home should also be a place of healing; some would say even a sacred place.

But Isn’t Steiner Dead?

Yes, he died in 1925, but he was also a spiritualist…. The kind that liked to commune with the dead.  Maybe he picked up some tricks.  It's pretty easy to make fun of someone whose science isn't very sciency.  But there is also genius there, and he fascinates me.

"Ghost" Image courtesy of
The Daring Librarian via Flickr
Steiner shows up again and again: tiptoeing around in my favorite book on Daylighting, as an expert on Goethe & Nietzsche and as an early target of Hitler.  He practically invented modern organic farming.

I’m just waiting for him to friend me on Facebook.  Is he crazy or crazy-like-a-fox?  I need to know whether I should run or invite him over for dinner.


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