From the World Heritage inscription:
Designed in around 1910, the Fagus factory in Alfeld constitutes an architectural complex which foreshadows the modernist movement in architecture. Built by Walter Gropius, it is notable for the innovative use of walls of vast glass panels combined with an attenuated load-bearing structure. It bears testimony to a major break with the existing architectural and decorative values of the period, and represents a determined move towards a functionalist industrial aesthetic.
The Fagus factory in Alfeld establishes several major fundamental aspects of modern functionalist architecture of the 20th century, in particular the curtain wall. It constitutes a homogeneous, territorial and built complex, rationally and completely designed to serve an industrial project. It expresses great architectural unity. The scheme is at once architectural, aesthetic and social, and bears witness to a determination to achieve humanist control of the social and aesthetic changes linked to industrialisation. The interior decorative and functional elements are attuned with the architecture and the social project. They represent one of the first consummate manifestations of industrial design.
The Fagus Factory in Alfeld is one of the most unique world heritage sites I’ve ever visited. Despite the fact that it is an actual working factory held in private hands, I wouldn’t really classify it as an industrial site, but rather an as architectural site.
I’ve read several reviews of the Fagus Factory which call it a ‘shoe factory’. This is incorrect. What they make are shoe lasts, which are the molds which are used to make shoes.
I’m guessing that only hardcore world heritage enthusiasts or students of architecture will be interested in visiting the Fagus Factory. If you are in Hildesheim, however, you might want to take the 30 minute drive to Alfeld to visit the factory as it is so close.
Despite being a functioning factory, there is a museum onsite dedicated to the building and the history of the company. Whoever it was in the Fagus corporation who had the idea of turning their factory into a world heritage site is a genius.