Visit the Fagus Factory

One of the first Modernist buildings in Europe, the Fagus Factory is amazingly still used by the same company today!

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Visit the Fagus Factory

While many of the things you'll see in the design seem normal today, the Fagus Factory was revolutionary when it was built in the early 20th century.

This fascinating World Heritage Site is a working production site, but it's possible to visit the Fagus Factory and see for yourself why it's so significant.

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 owner of this vision, telling him, “modern life needed new building organisms that match the lifestyles of our time”.

Fagus Factory, Alfeld, Germany

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.

Who designed the Fagus Factory?

Although the original plan was done by Eduard Werner, the architects Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer are credited with designing most of the Fagus Factory in Germany and were in charge of the project and construction from 1911 to 1925.

Why is the Fagus Factory important?

It may just be a shoe factory, but the Fagus Factory is considered one of the most important industrial structures in modern architecture. The innovative design created new principles of modern styles and influenced architecture throughout the 20th century.

Can you visit the Fagus Factory?

Even though the Fagus Factory in Alfeld is still an operational workplace, you can visit it and take a tour to see the architecture and explore its fascinating heritage.

When the Fagus Factory opened in the town of Alfeld, it was revolutionary – in a very similar way to the Van Nelle Factory in Rotterdam, also a World Heritage Site.

The large glass windows and unsupported corners were unprecedented and this new style of architecture placed an emphasis on good working conditions.

Inside, the employees had more light and fresh air than ever before to do their work – which, in this factory, was making ‘shoe lasts’, the feet-shaped moulds that are used by shoe manufacturers and repairers.

Fagus Factory, Alfeld, Germany

Even today when I visit the Fagus Factory, I can get a sense of how special it is. Many of these design choices and architectural styles are quite commonplace these days – but that’s because they were introduced for the first time here.

Knowing that makes my tour of the Fagus Factory seem even more significant… and I try to imagine how it must have been to have seen this for the first time a century ago.

History of the Fagus Factory

The story of the Fagus Factory starts in 1910, when a businessman called Carl Benscheidt decided he wanted to take his company in a new direction.

The products he were making were nothing new – the moulds used by shoemakers called ‘shoe lasts’. But he still wanted the business to be modern, breaking from traditional methods – and this included a new factory to would be a symbol of that.

An architect called Eduard Werner did the initial plans, but Benscheidt wanted something even more interesting, so he approached Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer, whose work he was familiar with and respected.

They took the initial designs and worked on the facades, championing the use of huge windows to let in the natural light – a radical idea at the time.

Fagus Factory, Alfeld, Germany

Construction of the Fagus Factory was done in several stages, between 1911 and 1925.

The initial stage took just a few years, using the original plan from Eduard Werner and the modifications from the new architects. But even before it was finished, the company knew it would need something bigger.

From 1913, there were a series of extensions, including to the drying house, the workroom, and the sawmill.

The First World War put a halt to most new construction at the factory, but there were more additions and extensions once the conflict had finished.

From then on, the Fagus Factory flourished, even despite the challenges of the Second World War. That means shoes have been made here for more than a century!

Over the decades, there have been some small modifications to the architecture, but it’s always retained the original vision.

Features of the Fagus Factory

On my visit to the Fagus Factory, as I’m shown through the various buildings, it’s the small things that are the most interesting – design elements that were uncommon at the time that changed the standards of industrial architecture.

The most obvious – and the most discussed – are the expansive glass facades throughout the complex. Where once there would’ve been brick, steel frames were built as load-bearers instead, with windows in between.

The windows could be opened in a way that created natural air-conditioning, giving the rooms a breezy feel.

And tasks that relied on keen eyesight were placed closer to the natural light streaming through the windows, making it more comfortable for those workers.

Fagus Factory, Alfeld, Germany

Another innovative element was corner windows, where the glass wrapped around the corners of the buildings, reducing the visual bulk and extending the feeling of openness.

And, although there is lots of glass in the design, brick still plays an important part in the aesthetics.

From the outside, you’ll notice that many of the buildings have a darker brick base that grounds the structure, while the same leather-yellow-coloured bricks are used in all the buildings to create unity.

Fagus Factory, Alfeld, Germany

As well as these smaller details in the design of the Fagus Factory, there are some key structures that I want to mention.

There are common architectural features across them, but they all play their own role in the production process, so seeing them also helps you understand how the factory originally worked.

  • Sawmill: The Fagus Factory complex is laid out in the same order that the wooden shoe lasts were made here. So the first building is the sawmill, where the wood was cut to be used to make the moulds.
  • Storehouse: The wood pieces were then steamed and disinfected and moved to the five-story storehouse and dried for several years. This is the tallest building at the factory complex, with the most amount of space.
  • Drying house: Although the wood had been dried naturally, there was a secondary drying procedure here, where the pieces were put into one of 30 heated chambers that were about 9 metres tall.
  • Workroom: This is the heart of the factory and looks like a large hall flooded with light. It’s where the workers would use precision instruments to turn the wood pieces into the exact shape of a foot that the shoe last needed to be.
  • Main building: The main building is where the administration section of the factory was (and still is). Running around the workroom in an L-shape, three stories high, it is the best example of the architectural vision of the complex.
  • The smoke stack: When you’re outside, look up to see the smoke stack, which was erected here in 1915. It’s 50 metres high and is made with the same yellow bricks as the other buildings.

These days, the shoe lasts are made from plastic, not wood, so some of these buildings are now used for different purposes.

Fagus Factory, Alfeld, Germany

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.

I think it’s really incredible that 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

There are lots of things to see when you visit the Fagus Factory, even though some parts of the complex are being used for production.

You might like to start at the UNESCO Visitor Centre, which is in the historic Chips House. There are interactive multimedia stations which give a good overview of the history of the complex and why it’s a World Heritage Site.

The main collection of information and artefacts is at the Fagus-Gropius Exhibition, which spans five floors of the former warehouse. There are heaps to see and learn here all about the architecture, the production process, and even how the products were used to make famous shoes!

And then there’s the Fagus Model Archive, where there are 30,000 original models of shoe lasts all lined up on racks, offering a fascinating insight into how shoes are made!

The entrance fee gives you access to all of these areas, plus the Fagus Gallery if there is an exhibition taking place there.

Fagus Factory, Alfeld, Germany

If possible though, I think a highlight is a guided tour of the Fagus Factory, because it will get you to places you couldn’t access otherwise, to get up close to all the details and get a sense of how the complex works.

However, because this goes onto the production line, the public tours are only run on the weekend plus a special one on Wednesday – and they’re only in German.

If you’re really interested in the story of the Fagus Factory, I would suggest trying to time your visit for one of those days so you can take the tour. And even if you don’t speak German, go along so you can see inside all the buildings.

For groups of more than five people, you can book a tour in advance in other languages, for an additional translation fee.

Fagus Factory, Alfeld, Germany

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 of the site.

The factory was 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.

Otherwise, it’s very easy to access by car and I would recommend stopping for a bit if you’re driving in the area.

Where is the Fagus Factory?

Fagus Factory is located near the Leine River in Alfeld, a town about 40 minutes from Hanover.
The official address is Hannoversche Straße 58, 31061 Alfeld (Leine), Germany. You can see it on a map here.

How do you get to the Fagus Factory?

To get to the Fagus Factory, catch the train to Alfeld and then follow the signs to walk there in about 10 minutes.
If you’re travelling by car, you can reach the factory via Road 3. Use their route planner to help you with navigation. Parking is free and there are parking spaces for wheelchair users in the immediate vicinity of the visitors centre.

When is the Fagus Factory open?

The Fagus Factory is at the following times:
April to October: 10:00 – 17:00
November to March: 10:00 – 16:00
It is closed 1 January, and 24/25/31 December.

What is the Fagus Factory entrance fee?

Admission prices to the factory are €11 for a standard ticket. An entry ticket costs €10 for a concession and €6 for a child (6-16).
A family ticket costs €19 which includes 2 adults and a max of 4 children under 16 years.

Are there tours of Fagus Factory?

Yes, there are public tours of the Fagus Factory run by the company itself.
The tours are run on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 13:00. From April to October there is an additional tour at 11:00 on Sunday.
The price for the public tour is €16 for a standard ticket, €15 for a concession and €11 for a child, with a family ticket costing €38. This includes access to all the exhibition areas.

For more information, see the official website of the Fagus Factory.

If you need somewhere to eat, there’s the Fagus-Gropius Cafe on site which serves traditional local meals in the former machine house.

After your visit to the Fagus Factory, you can walk or drive to the nearby Leine River and admire the view. I would recommend going to Alfelder Wasserfall and then checking the Storchennest Alfeld and hope you see some birds.


There is not much accommodation near the factory so I think the best thing to do is stay in Hannover and travel in from there.


For a good backpacker 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 funky, Prizeotel has some cool designs.


And if you want some luxury, you can’t go past the location of the Kastens Hotel Luisenhof.

Time Travel Turtle was supported by DB Bahn, the German National Tourist Board and Youth Hostels in Germany but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.


This site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
I'm on a mission to visit as many World Heritage Sites as I can. Only about 800 more to go... eek!

2 thoughts on “Visit the Fagus Factory”

  1. Fagus Grecon was one of my clients here in the States ( Portland, Oregon) It’s a great little town and cheap to stay in. It’s also known for the birthplace of literature for snow whit and the seven dwarfs. Inspired by the springs that run by the river and the mountain ridge behind the town with seven peaks/ ridges which each dwarf lived. There’s a museum part of which I helped design on the Fagus-Grecon- Demter side of the business. Great town especially when the revolving farmers market comes into town each week. A hidden secret place for sure.


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