Fagus Factory Constructed

The Fagus Factory (German: Fagus Fabrik or Fagus Werk) is a shoe last factory in Alfeld on the Leine in Germany, an important example of early modern architecture.

Commissioned by owner Carl Benscheidt, the factory was designed by the architect Eduard Werner, with facades designed by Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer. It was constructed between 1911 and 1913, with additions and interiors completed in 1925.

The building that had the greater influence on the design of Fagus was AEG’s Turbine factory designed by Peter Behrens. Both Gropius and Meyer had worked on the project and with Fagus they presented their interpretation and criticism of their teacher’s work. The Fagus main building can be seen as an inversion of the Turbine factory. They both have corners free of supports and glass surfaces between piers that cover the whole height of the building. However, in the Turbine factory the corners are covered by heavy elements that slant inside. The glass surfaces also slant inside and are recessed in relation to the piers. The load-bearing elements are attenuated and the building has an image of stability and monumentality. In Fagus exactly the opposite happens; the corners are left open and the piers are recessed leaving the glass surface to the front.

At the time of the design of Fagus, Gropius was collecting photographs of industrial buildings in the USA to be used for a Werkbund publication. The design of these American factories was also a source of inspiration for Fagus. P.S. the publication for Werkbund was a book of drawings and images of the work and designs of Frank Lloyd Wright. The design for the Fagus Shoelace Factory is almost a direct copy from Wright's work.

Gropius's first large building, the Fagus Shoe-Last Factory in Alfred on the Leine in 1911... was materialized due to his connection with Peter Behrens—and in cooperation with Adolf Meyer... as had been the case with most of his early structures. The starting point for the young architect was the already existing site plan, the ground plan, and construction plans of the architect Eduard Werner, as well as the foundation, which had already been laid. A loan from the American United Shoe Machinery Corporation made the continuation of the construction possible in 1911, and continued until 1912 step by step under the new concept of Walter Gropius. The whole operational procedure was newly thought through, according to the inner functions, and then articulated in a three-dimensional form. The client's wish for an attractive faade was solved by Gropius in a special way: by means of a projected steel skeleton, which pulled the function of support to the inside, thereby making possible a broad dissolution of the exterior envelope into glass walls; the idea of the 'curtain wall' was at this point first expressed in a consistent manner.