The Fagus factory is symbol of a unique co-operation between two completely different personalities. In 1911, Carl Benscheidt engaged the young Walter Gropius, an architect who had been absolutely unknown until then, to design this factory. Their co-operation resulted in the company's outstanding architecture being filled with productive life - and this has been preserved until today. Today as then, shoe lasts continue to be produced in these premises.
Under Carl Benscheidt’s management, the company developed rapidly, also, due to contacts made to the USA, who had introduced the welt-sole-machines and wished to distribute these in Europe, too, reaching an agreement to recommend each other’s lasts/machines. Behrens soon became the most important shoe last factory in Germany.
Expansion of the product range became possible due to mass production, new working tools and supplies and the fact of having their own metal-working company. By also supplying cutting knifes, blocks and boards etc. Behrens was able to give optimized service to the shoe industry which represented an advantage over their competition. After Carl Behrens passed away, C. Benscheidt was entrusted with the company’s management together with the merchant Wilhelm Bertram. Insurmountable differences with the new owners forced Benscheidt to leave Carl Behrens’ company in 1910.
Soon after, Benscheidt again negotiated with the USA and founded, at the age of 53, his own shoe last company: the Fagus factory which was built opposite the company building of Carl Behrens. Many employees who used to work for Behrens came to Benscheidt because the reasons he had left there impressed many people and it was on everyone’s lips. Production started at once; the company grew rapidly and developed into a superior manufacturer.
Carl Benscheidt engaged the young, and rather unknown Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus workshop, to design his factory entrusting him with further orders until 1926. On 31.08.1947, C. Benscheidt passed away in Alfeld.
As a successful entrepreneur in the shoe last branch, he had a significant part in earning Alfeld a good reputation as industrial location. Up to today, there are numerous buildings in the city of Alfeld which are characteristic of, and based on, Carl Benscheidt. Benscheidt was absolutely conscious of the fact that quality products can only be produced by motivated employees working in a well-equipped factory. Already at the turn of the century his business philosophy included proper lighting conditions at work stations, company social contributions and commitment to public housing for workers.
He acted as moderniser and reformer in local affairs representing the interests of the young industry of Alfeld. The Fagus factory built in 1911 stands, figuratively, on the foundations built by his experience and conviction.
Starting in 1926 Gropius intensively dealt with the topic of mass residential building as a solution for town planning and social problems and spoke up for the rationalisation of the building industry. He designed numerous residential building projects such as the housing estate Dessau-Törten (1926–1931), Dammerstock (1928/1929), residential blocks in the metropolitan settlement Siemensstadt in Berlin (1929/1930) and the project Wannsee-shore building, also in Berlin (1930/1931).
With his idea of a „high-dimension construction kit“ Gropius created a foundation for the Plattenbauten (building made with precast concrete slabs) in the world’s satellite cities. On the one hand, industrial mass construction quickly provides urgently required living space, on the other hand it makes for anonymous living and creates new social problems.
1934 Gropius moved to England then taught at Harvard University from 1937-1952. After having called Marcel Breuer to Harvard, also, in 1938, he founded an architectural office together with him. They received numerous orders, e.g. The Pennsylvania Pavilion for the world exhibition in New York. They were responsible for the fact that the “New Building” became known in the USA as well.
In 1946, Walter Gropius founded "The Architects Collaborative" (TAC) with which he realized numerous projects.
Gropius passed away in Boston on 05.07.1969.
Walter Gropius is characterized as an extremely progressive artist. Already before the war he abandoned the massive façades of the past in favour of glazed-wall solutions which seemed to be weightless. In form’s language he consequently avoided historicisms, ornaments or symbolic values and fully concentrated on the functionality of mere geometric basic bodies.
The oeuvre of Walter Gropius is completed by style-forming and trend setting plans for furniture and fixtures as well as for railway wagons and cars (models for Adler, 1930).