Edinburgh Steiner Schools New Building

Waldorf building receives Architecture MasterPrize ‘Honorary Mention’ during Waldorf 100 week.

Thursday marked the centenary of Waldorf Steiner education globally. Campuses on every habitable continent in some 80 countries follow a remarkable and consistent ethos, drawing inspiration from founder Rudolf Steiner’s teachings and his Goetheanum in Switzerland. Now a C-listed Steiner-inspired building in Edinburgh wins an Honorary Mention in Design Architecture / Educational Buildings by Architecture MasterPrize (AMP).

The AMP celebrates the very best in design excellence and innovation from the worlds of Architectural, Interior, and Landscape Design. It is a living example of community construction - involving pupil, parent and pastoral teacher involvement in the design and build.

Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was an Austrian social reformer, educational philosopher and architect. Designing 17 buildings in his lifetime, three have been listed amongst the most significant works of modern architecture. These include both the first and second Goetheanums in Swizerland - the latter now the world center for the spiritual science – anthroposophy - behind the education.

Still the largest and fastest growing independent education system in the world, 100 years on from the first School opening in Stuttgart on 19th September 1919, there are now over 1,100 Steiner schools and 2,000 kindergartens.

Edinburgh Steiner School provides a holistic education highly respecting architecture, emphasising pupils throughout their educational careers are profoundly influenced by their built environment.

In 1988 Benjamin Tindall Architects designed the School's unhurried Kindergarten. Thirty years on, the design principles have matured for the restoration of a 19th Century coach house to 21st Century classrooms.

Benjamin Tindall Architects has over three decades of experience, with an emphasis on environmental, economic and social sustainability. Projects include Jupiter Artland at Bonnington House, the east gate at the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens, and the Queen’s Gallery.

Dilapidated, damp and disused at the beginning of the year, the £0.5m project broke ground in January converting a stable block, coach house and hay loft into two large classrooms and a pair of creative arts studios to mark the School’s 80th anniversary.

The design is a physical realisation of the principals of Steiner education, with improved environmental credentials, and a respect for its 150-year-old history.

Children often leave their mark on schools, from scribbles on desks to testing the resilience of furniture. This project actively invited their contributions from materials chosen for their reaction to human contact to pupils participating in the design and build: adding a distinctive façade through boldly integrating Steiner’s Curriculum of Colours, whittling coat hooks by hand from native wood, to making tactile elm handles for the kitchens in each of the four rooms.

With the new academic year in session, it is a modern example of child-friendly architecture within a Waldorf Steiner campus, used as classrooms for many of the pupils who worked on the project; the building itself being used as an educational to.

Sitting on a three-acre campus within a conservation area of Merchiston, Historic Scotland’s Statement of Special Interest notes: “The survival of the stable block [circa 1875] contributes to a large extent to the listed building status”.

The building is taking part in this year’s Doors Open on Saturday 28th September. The architectural initiative – now in its 30th year - encouraging people to discover some of Edinburgh’s most unique and interesting buildings which are normally closed to the public.

To mark the occasion, Edinburgh Steiner School is opening the gates to a campus that delivers a curriculum spanning 15 years of a pupil’s school career, juxtaposing two distinct Waldorf buildings that are at each end of the spectrum of child-friendly architecture: the unhurried, purpose-built Kindergarten for the Early Years and the newly converted 19th Century coach house into 21st Century classrooms for the penultimate and final years of school.

The conservation works are part of an £8 million campus development project facilitating the 300 pupil school to grow as a beacon of Steiner education in Scotland, with fundraising efforts underway to raise a further £500,000 to repair and convert the conjoined west coach house and build a new extension to the science wing.

The first school based upon Steiner’s ideas was opened in 1919 to serve the children of employees of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company in Stuttgart, Germany. The co-educational school was the first comprehensive school in Germany, serving children from all social classes, genders, abilities, and interests.

Political interference from the Nazi regime limited and ultimately closed most Waldorf schools in Europe in the late 1930s. The affected schools, including the original school, were reopened after the Second World War.

The priority of the Steiner ethos is to provide an unhurried and creative learning environment where children can find the joy in learning and experience the richness of childhood rather than early specialisation or academic hot-housing.

Edinburgh Steiner School was one of the first schools to be established in the UK, opening its gates to 8 pupils in 1939. It now has an all-through school, Kindergarten, Parent & Toddler groups and a soon-to-be-registered playgroup. It is also a Teacher Training Centre, a centre for the delivery of Integrated Education and a centre for Cambridge English Assessment for international students.

Edinburgh Steiner School  60 Spylaw Road  Edinburgh  EH10 5BR

0131 337 3410