Rex Raab

Architect collaborator of Rudolf Steiner

Since the end of the Second World War the architect Rex Raab was closely associated as a practitioner and as a lecturer with the Anthroposophical Society created by Rudolf Steiner. Raab was responsible for many projects for the society, including Waldorf schools and other educational schemes as well as kindergartens and health clinics, all based on holistic principles in which "architecture means an intensive spiritual and practical study". He also designed churches including the much-praised Neue Kirche in Berlin.



Rex Raab, architect and teacher: born London 7 April 1914; married 1957 Grete Scherzer; died Stuttgart, Germany 19 March 2004.



Since the end of the Second World War the architect Rex Raab was closely associated as a practitioner and as a lecturer with the Anthroposophical Society created by Rudolf Steiner. Raab was responsible for many projects for the society, including Waldorf schools and other educational schemes as well as kindergartens and health clinics, all based on holistic principles in which "architecture means an intensive spiritual and practical study". He also designed churches including the much-praised Neue Kirche in Berlin.

For the followers of anthroposophy, however, it is probably for the initial interior work he did on Der Bau, the celebrated Goetheanum building in Dornach designed by Steiner himself, that Raab is best remembered, although that work has now been extended and completed by others.

Although he was born in London, in 1914, Rex Raab for all appearances was the quintessential continental, who showed in his rather serious and urbane manner (not without a sparkling sense of "wit") a broad cultural knowledge and a wide range of interests. This was coupled with his drive and devotion to the cause of anthroposophy and to his lifelong partner, Grete Scherzer, herself an acclaimed concert pianist.

Raab was the product of English and American parents both with German backgrounds. After a conventional school upbringing in London, he studied as an architect from 1931 to 1936 at the then Northern Polytechnic, School of Architecture (now the London Metropolitan University). His college dissertation was on the relationship of colour within Greek architecture and Goethe's colour theories, a topic that introduced him not simply to Goethe's work, but also inspired an interest in colour and its uses in architecture and which put him on a pathway to Steiner and the Goetheanum.

On graduation he became an Associate of the RIBA and began work in the office of H.S. Goodhart-Rendel, a noted Regency-style architect. With his family at the time in Hampstead Garden Suburb, Raab lived nearby and met its architect planner Raymond Unwin, whose ideas on garden cities Raab was to admire and promote all his life.

In 1938-39 he took a year out from practice to enrol at the Goetheanum as a sculpture student under Oswald Dubach and Carl Kemper.

After war broke out Raab returned to the London office of Goodhart-Rendel, but the Blitz soon put an end to any creative architectural practice. Raab volunteered as a medical orderly in the FAU (Friends' Ambulance Unit), where he gained experience also as a teacher in the Midlands. He claimed that this sowed his interest in the design and building of school buildings - a specialism that was to occupy him for most of his career. However, still in England in the immediate post-war years, he became involved in a number of social and welfare projects with the practice Adams, Holden and Pearson, architects for London University and modern stations on the London Underground.

Soon afterwards, Raab moved to Austria, where he worked as a welfare officer and as head of the Exchange Committee for Education. This post that took him to Vienna, Graz, Salzburg and Linz - journeys he recorded in beautifully evocative sketches.

Raab was 40 years old when he established his own office in southern Germany, beginning a life as a busy practitioner with a small staff and many commissions and consultancies. Despite this heavily committed workload, he was able to fit in a busy lecture programme, taking him to universities in England, Switzerland, Sweden and Finland.

These lectures were overarching and memorable presentations that linked the pioneer works of the craft-orientated, 19th-century-born early organic Modernists such as Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier with the second-generation Modernists Hans Scharoun and Eero Saarinen as well as Rudolf Steiner. Raab called their inspirational work, collectively, the "architecture of the soul". Through such work the spirit of humankind and the spirit of place coalesced.

Among the buildings Raab greatly admired were those designed by his anthroposophical colleague and close friend the Danish-born architect Eric Asmussen at the Rudolfsteinerseminariet in Jarna, near Stockholm in Sweden. Both architects, with their close friend the painter and inspirational teacher Arne Klingborg - who was behind Jarna - experimented in the use of colour for buildings and particularly in the use of lazure techniques to enhance the atmosphere of a room and to lend it a special (therapeutic) quality.

Raab published a number of books and many papers in German, but his English book Eloquent Concrete, written with Arne Klingborg and published in 1979 to coincide with a travelling exhibition on anthroposophical architects, brought him a new audience. It collected together many examples of the work of the younger architects associated with the Steiner movement, emphasising its holistic and organic qualities.

It has to be said Rex Raab himself was no friend of the machine culture associated with Modernism. Indeed, he abhorred automation, seeking instead

to harmonise the physical, the construction and the artistic elements of the building . . . More than that we try to link them in our hearts - in which the first two elements should be in the service of the third.

His philosophy and the wide scope of his architectural work live on in the minds of many of those who followed his example.

Dennis Sharp

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