Restructuring the Urban!

The wave post-industrial revolution led to the development of more manufacturing units in the capital, such as the Fagus factory. Unlike the US and other European countries, the Prussian government, in order to maintain the long-stretched monopoly of the capital, confined the manufacturing centers in the inner city. The democrats of Berlin had the concept of decentralization; however, to prevent the monarch from declining, the industries did not expand to the peripheral suburbs. However, the peripheral area was partially opened when the AEG Complex was built. The idea of a human-centered space based on human activity wasn’t seen in any of the built forms of the capital – a generalized design for all. 

“In a spatial association of home and work, whenever work was labor intensive, the architecture was non-functional and capital intensive.” (Waterhouse, 1985) Apart from a few far-sighted firms, most of them tended to the old ways of authoritativeness. 

Gropius’ Fagus-werk A Perspective to Modernism in Germany-Sheet1
AEG Turbine factory_©Siemens
Gropius’ Fagus-werk A Perspective to Modernism in Germany-Sheet2
AEG turbine factory on the periphery of Berlin_ ©The Fagus-werk: Industry, Urban Land, and Architectural Ideology

A Turn of events: Making of AEG Factory

AEG was built in the inner city, with an architecture that contradicts the context’s setup. It responded to matters like worker exploitation, extreme competition, and political inertia. 

Changes—The initial compartmentalization of the production process involved shifting people and their workplaces according to the hierarchy of specialized tasks and machines. The second was to increase the ratio of professionals and technicians—this was a huge shift from the standardized process in any production unit.

After the construction of the AEG Factory, Fagus Works was one of the few firms established outside the city center, along the railway lines. 

A slow rise of Industrial design?

How did the Fagus factory as a manufacturing unit act as an advancement in modernism with a human perspective? What factors affected the idea of proposing a shoe-last factory?

Carl Benscheidt, a pioneering company founder who went through a severe chronic illness in his childhood, pursued to study medicine as his main faculty of study. He worked with Arnold Rikli at different naturopathic centers in 1877-1879. While undergoing the training, he came across various patients having foot problems due to the existing design of the shoe, which was then being mass-produced. It lacked the sense of anatomy, wherein the shoe lasts had a symmetry, which in turn made the life of the workers easy. 

Hence, Carl, not getting any responses from his fellow acquaintances to resolve the concern, started his own workshop in 1884 in Hanover. Knowing the importance of a healthy lifestyle, he wanted to maintain the working conditions of the laborers in his company and the product made for the respective consumers.

Gropius’ Fagus-werk A Perspective to Modernism in Germany-Sheet3
Fagus Factory_©The Fagus-werk: Industry, Urban Land, and Architectural Ideology, Illustration by Vedanshi Sarda

How did the design project land with Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer? Were there any philosophical similarities between Carl and Gropius that led to the design’s amalgamation of form and function?

During the 1900s, there was a wave of simplifying unnecessary ornamentation and material optimization post-industrialization. Hence, Edward Werner, who designed the initial layout plans in his design proposal, divided the space into ten buildings according to the functionalities. He applied a logical solution of applying the grids of the plan on the facade, wherein the infill to be used as glass amidst the piers. However efficient the space planning of the factory was, the exterior and the interior did not entirely satisfy the image of the new building. The building facade was seamlessly divided into grids up until the part with washrooms and laboratories, where the grid was further broken into smaller sections serving the functional aspect, breaking the harmony. Therefore, Gropius and Meyer proposed a new design that adhered to Werner’s plan, which convinced Carl to approve it further.

Gropius’ philosophical idea was the unity of art and technology, which not only caters to the aesthetic purpose but also has a utilitarian aspect. Carl cared for his workers and wished to ensure social benefits. Hence, their works aligned with human-centric design at a larger prospect.

What influenced the Fagus factory design proposal of Gropius and what were its implications in his further life as a designer?

AEG Turbine factory, a historic icon in the history of modernization, was designed by Peter Behrens. He saw the process of designing as an artistic consultant and hence became the first industrial designer by name. He looked at materials as a revolution, wherein he used steel sections, glass curtains, and concrete for his modern skeletal construction. The front facade of the AEG factory had a massive glass wall with steel sections, emulating a classical facade with columns below the pediment. 

Walter Gropius worked in Behrens’ office and was intrigued by it. Hence, the Fagus factory proposal was highly influenced by the AEG factory. Later on, the Fagus ideology led to the commencement of Bauhaus, which started the modern design school at Dessau.

Fagus – Werk: A modern example

How did Gropius approach the design with a modernist perspective regarding its construction and materiality?

Adhering to the plan proposed by Werner, Walter Gropius delves deep into designing the facade. The front facade overlooked the railway line, which became an effective platform for advertising itself. The glass panes were placed with an offset outside of the piers of the load-bearing structure in such a way that it enveloped the built form. The panes were divided into sections by trim steel mullions. The front facade has a mass made from brick purging outwards with a medieval metal door at the entrance. The windows have a vertical pivot opening with steel frames around them. Instead of placing the staircase with a defined shaft as the conventional way, Gropius merged it subtly. The floor joints on the facades followed the same grid as the glass, but only with the infill of metal sheets, dividing the floors from the exterior yet maintaining harmony. Hence, the exterior design reveals the construction logic of the building. 

Compartmentalizing & spatial planning

Contradicting the generalized spatial planning for all built forms, the Fagus factory advanced the concept of compartmentalizing according to function. 

The compartments made were the sawmill, Store House, Drying house, the main building, which consisted of the admin and manufacturing units area (workroom), engine house, Smoke stack, chip, coal bunker, cutting die department, and gatekeeper’s house. 

Gropius’ Fagus-werk A Perspective to Modernism in Germany-Sheet4
Fagus Factory and its compartmentalization_© Illustration by Vedanshi Sarda


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Jaeggi, A., & Schwaiger, E. (2000). Fagus: Industrial culture from Werkbund to Bauhaus. Princeton Architectural Press. 

CCAchannel. (2017). A305/04: Industrial Architecture: Aeg and Fagus Factories. Youtube. Retrieved September 9, 2022, from 

Pascucci, D. (2018, October 24). Ad classics: Fagus factory / Walter Gropius + Adolf Meyer. ArchDaily. Retrieved September 11, 2022, from

WATERHOUSE, A. (1985). THE FAGUS-WERK: INDUSTRY, URBAN LAND, AND ARCHITECTURAL IDEOLOGY. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 2(3), 201–225.

The Fagus Factory in Alfred – Nomination for Inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List


Vedanshi Sarda is a recent graduate in the field of interior architecture from CEPT University. Along with being a designer, she is also a professional classical dancer. As an individual with deep spiritual inclination, her interests are directed towards exploring phenomenological facets of art, crafts and culture as space making tools. She eagerly looks forward to sharing some engaging narratives.