Why is the Section for Agriculture at the Goetheanum working on the subject of landscape?

Jean-Michel Florin

The interaction of humans with their natural environment creates what we call "landscape", in contrast to what we would call "wilderness"- untouched by humans. Therefore a landscape reveals and reflects the worldview of the people who live in it. The aim of the Goethean landscape work is to contribute to the development of a worldview that creates and sustains beautiful and multifunctional landscapes that serve our human needs, in contrast to the current common worldview that results in exploitative use of the land.

In former times, most people lived in very close contact with nature. Farmers worked in harmony with nature. This agriculture embedded in nature has created landscapes that we see today as harmonious and healthy. These landscapes were created as a kind of "byproduct" of this close relationship and involvement with nature.

Since the dawn of the modern age and the development of cities that relationship has faded gradually (nowadays more than half the world's population live in cities). Now it is even possible for people to live on the land, without having any knowledge of nature. As a consequence, harmonious landscapes no longer come about without conscious consideration and effort.

This increasing separation between man and nature arouses in many people a yearning for nature. Landscaping has increasingly become a social issue, a profession and a concern for many people. The need for natural and harmonious landscapes is growing. This also transforms the task of agriculture: in addition to producing healthy food, agriculture has the new task of producing "food" for the senses and for the soul. Many people are not only looking for beautiful landscapes to visit over the weekend, but for agricultural landscapes which allows them to experience nature through their physical senses and where they can actively participate.

Compared to the 1970s and 80s, where many farmers took on a farm in a remote location, now the opposite is occurring: urban gardening, urban farming, etc. bring nature back into the city, to where people live, where the contaminated soil was often influenced by industrial agriculture. An important new task emerges in industrial zones, which can be transformed into an oasis for flora, fauna and humans.

This issue affects us directly at the Section for Agriculture at the Goetheanum. In fact, the Goetheanum itself - originally surrounded by cherry trees in a rural village – is today situated in the agglomeration of Basel. The city of Basel has merged with its growing suburbs. In this setting, the Goetheanum Gardenpark – created by Rudolf Steiner as a unified work of art and maintained by a competent group of gardeners and farmers – can serve as a model: the Goetheanum and its Gardenpark are a place of education and research for people who are seeking new forms of design and organisation of public spaces. The Goetheanum Gardenpark is a model of how various functions such as leisure, production, environmental conservation and research can be integrated, rather than having, as is so often the case, parks in the cities and agricultural production away from the cities, segregated from each other.

A unique feature of the Goetheanum Gardenpark is that the design concept is inspired by the idea of ?the “farm organism" coming from biodynamic agriculture, i.e. a concept taken from the living world, for the living world. A landscape is thought of as being a living organism, which has its own character. The various functions for which humans want to use their surroundings are embedded harmoniously into this entity so that the unique character of the landscape is enhanced. This stands in stark contrast to parks, gardens and landscapes that are designed according to arbitrary urban and architectural concepts.

Moreover, the Goetheanum and its School of Spiritual Science are at the heart of the Gardenpark. The challenge for the park design is therefore to combine the idea of ??the farm organism with the needs of the School, in a way that enhances both and, in addition, integrates the Goetheanum and its Gardenpark into the near and distant surroundings. The planning of a living organism can not be rigid. Any fixed blueprint would be against nature. We practice, therefore, a dynamic design and management process, that is constantly evolving. The Gardenpark is transformed in accordance with the natural evolution of the site, the needs of the Goetheanum and the competence and initiative of the people involved in its care and maintenance.

The Section for Agriculture wants to contribute tangibly and locally to a sustainable landscape design inspired by the idea of ? the farm organism. What we do here will hopefully inspire and come to fruition in the wider surroundings as well.

Awakening to landscape: awakening to what?