The seminal building of modern architecture is to be found in the small industrial town of Alfeld in Lower Saxony: The Carl Benscheidt Shoe Last Factory, better known under the trade name “Fagus”. Shoe lasts are still made there today, and it’s still a family company.
Work on the building commenced in 1911, the plans came from Walter Gropius, who later founded the “Bauhaus”. The owner, Carl Benscheidt, was strongly influenced by the ideas of the “Lebensreform” movement. Their project was to become a turning point in architectural history, and also sent out a signal for the social reform orientated industrial ethic of that time. True to his motto, “Build palaces for the workplace”, Walter Gropius designed not only an ultra modern exterior for the factory, but also, for that time, exemplary working conditions and social arrangements. This in turn was an expression of the paternalistic feelings which Carl Benscheidt had for his staff - an early form of corporate identity, which is still evident today.
The “Fagus” factory combines the innovations of an emergent modern architecture with a new working ethic and the social responsibilities of the industrialist.
The film looks at a living monument of cultural history, reflecting the connections between an avant-garde movement in architecture and social and ethical ideals of the early twentieth century.