Fagus Factory, Alfeld, Germany
It took two young architects, both trying to make their mark in the world, to think outside the box and create one of the founding buildings of the Modernist movement in Europe.
Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer were both in their late 20s when they were given the contract to build the Fagus Factory in their home country of Germany. Gropius, in particular, wanted this first industrial commission of his to be artistic and memorable. He convinced the company’s owners of this vision, telling them, “modern life needed new building organisms that match the lifestyles of our time.”
The year was 1910 and factories had, until this point, being rather bland affairs. Concrete cubes with small windows, grey exteriors and even darker interiors. They were built representing the efficiency they were supposed to produce. But Gropius and Meyer wanted to turn all of this on its head.
When the Fagus Factory opened in the town of Alfeld, it was revolutionary. The large glass windows and unsupported corners were unprecedented and this new style of architecture placed an emphasis on good working conditions. The windows could be opened in a way that created natural air-conditioning and tasks that relied on keen eyesight were placed closer to the natural light streaming through the windows.
Both Gropius and Meyer went on to be very influential in the Bauhaus movement that spread through Germany and Europe. The building they started with proved their talent and it has stood the test of time. Incredibly, the same company that built the Fagus Factory is still operating here today, making moulds for shoe production. Although technology has changed and the moulds are now made from plastic, not beech wood, the building has needed very few modifications over the years.
Visiting the Fagus Factory in Alfeld
To appreciate the significant architectural details, it’s important to see the building from the outside and the inside. Even though the factory is operational, there are tours through all areas including past the production lines. There is also an excellent museum over several floors of the old warehouse that tells the story of the building and the business.
The tour that I take is led by one of the workers here – like most of them are. This means that not only do you get a great explanation of the building and its features, there’s also the opportunity to get a fascinating insight into the life of the workers and how it has changed over the past century.
The Fagus Factory is just a short ten minute walk from Alfeld train station and, in fact, arriving by train from the north gives an appropriate preview to the site. The factory is built along the railway line for the easy transportation of goods and the architects placed more emphasis on the trackside part of the building because they considered it would be seen by more people.
All the things you need to know
Hannoversche Straße 58, 31061 Alfeld (Leine), Germany.
You can see it on a map here.
For a good budget option, I would suggest the Bed’nBudget City-Hostel, which is in a great location.
For a lovely hotel at reasonable rates, the IntercityHotel, often has great deals.
If you're interested in something a bit more boutique, I would recommend prizeotel or Design Hotel Wiegand.
And if you want some luxury, you can't go past the location of the Kastens Hotel Luisenhof.