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Functionalist masterpiece

June 28, 2011

For 100 years the Fagus Factory has been the production site for model feet. Now the United Nations has recognized the massive factory in central Germany as a landmark architectural masterpiece.

The Fagus Factory at sundown
Fagus laid the groundwork for a century of industrial architectureImage: Carsten Janssen

A glass-and-steel shoe last factory designed by Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius has become the latest spot in Germany to gain the title of UNESCO World Heritage site.

The United Nations' cultural organization announced Saturday in Paris that the Fagus Factory, located in the central German town of Alfeld, would join the list of World Heritage sites - which includes such structures as the Pyramids of Giza and the Statue of Liberty.

The factory, constructed from 1911 to 1925, is a "landmark in the development of modern architecture and industrial design," UNESCO said in a statement.

The statement said the complex, which still produces model feet for shoemakers, "foreshadowed the work of the Bauhaus school and is a landmark in the development of architecture in Europe and North America."

Johanna Wanka, culture minister for the state of Lower Saxony, welcomed the news.

Aerial shot of Le Corbusier's Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart
Le Corbusier's Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart is also nominatedImage: Valerie Hammbacher

"A hundred years ago the era of Bauhaus style began, we see that a whole region is benefited by this outstanding honor, thanks to an exemplary commitment to preserving this historic building," she said.

Gropius, who in 1919 founded Germany's influential pre-war Bauhaus design school, is considered one of the pioneers of modern architecture.

Marked by its functionalist aesthetic and sweeping expanses of glass panel, the Fagus Factory was one of two German sites inscribed into the World Heritage list Saturday, the other being the sum of Germany's largest beech forests.

UNESCO's World Heritage Committee was set to continue its 35th session on Monday, considering a total of 35 natural, cultural and mixed nominated sites for inscription into the list.

Another German site was rejected: the committee found that two houses designed in 1927 by the Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier in the Weissenhof housing estate in Stuttgart were not worthy of inclusion, since it was not UNESCO's task to include all the works of individual architects.

Author: David Levitz (AFP, AP, dpa)

Editor: Sean Sinico, Michael Lawton