Until recently, I was ignorant of the fact that there exist a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites close to where I currently live (Lower Saxony, Germany). Fagus Factory, better known as Fagus-Werk, is one of them. Designed by the founder of the Bauhaus School, Walter Gropius, the building was considered unusually modern when it was erected in 1911 because it dismissed traditional forms and instead, considered the need for light, air and clarity.
A timeless example of 21st century architecture, I would not have been surprised if someone had told me the factory was new. The glass and steel windows are, in my opinion, especially stunning. When I visited Fagus-Werk a few weeks ago, I joined a tour and learned that while the windows have recently been restored, the brick structure of the building remains in original condition.
So what kind of goods are produced here exactly?
What is a last? To be frank, I didn’t know either. But I found out that they are used to create the shape of the shoe. Back in the day, they were made from wood. Moistened leather was wrapped around the last, connected to the shoe’s sole and left to dry in order for the shoe to receive its basic shape. The last was then removed.
Nowadays, shoe lasts are produced using synthetic materials. In the photo below, you can see bins full of green shoe lasts which I spotted during the tour of the factory. Fact: Fagus-Werk is the only UNESCO site where the production of goods occurs today similar to the way it did when the factory opened up over 100 years ago.
Although designing a shoe last – let alone producing one – doesn’t interest me in the least (sorry Ates), a visit to Fagus-Werk opened my eyes to the meticulous creative process it requires. I now realize and appreciate what’s involved in the design and creation of a pair of shoes that fit well. Fundamentally, a world without shoe lasts would be a world without shoes.