František Lýdie Gahura
Architect František Lýdie Gahura was born on October 10, 1891 into a large family in the poorest part of Zlín. Gahura tended toward sculpture since his youth and decided to study it. He graduated from the art-oriented Industrial School in Uherské Hradiště and practised with sculptor and plasterer Alois Amort. In October 1910 he was admitted to the Imperial-royal School of Applied Arts in Prague (under the tutelage of Prof. Josip Plečnik).
With regard to the rational requirements of Tomáš Baťa, but also the need to provide material resources, Gahura decided to continue his studies in architecture and in 1919 he commenced to the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague (under Prof. Jan Kotěra). While still a student, he designed and built the town hall (1922–1924) for Zlín. After his marriage to Lýdie Rousová from Prague, he took her first name as his middle name.
He joined the Baťa company as a permanent employee in 1924 and worked for Baťa until 1945. In the years 1924–1925, a complete reconstruction of the hitherto spontaneously developing factory began. Gahura designed the master- plan for a new arrangement of buildings using the company's structural system of a reinforced concrete skeleton with a 6.15 × 6.15m span. He begun to use this system, originally intended for factory buildings, with great creative invention in different ways and, in combination with bricks and glass panes, also in public buildings.
One of Gahura's first corporate tasks was the construction of a hospital complex realised in 1926–1936. He also used the standardised construction system in the design of primary schools (1927), later called Masaryk's Experimental Schools. Gahura's original urban design is a park boulevard in the centre of Zlín, lined with two rows of dormitories for the young men and young women of Baťa. He also designed some of the first buildings on the newly formed náměstí Práce (Labour Square) in Zlín: the Company Department Store (1930) and the Big Cinema building (1931).
As the successor of Jan Kotěra, who was his professor and consultant for architecture in Zlín, he participated in the concept of garden districts with standardised corporate family houses. After the tragic death of Tomáš Baťa, he realised, as a tribute to the founder of the new Zlín, his most important work - the Tomáš Baťa Memorial (1933). With this distinctive solitary structure, he completed the boarding school boulevard and at the same time the north-south urban axis of the city.
In the years 1933–1946, he held the position of the first city architect of Zlín. He worked mainly as an urban planner involved in the master-plan of "Great Zlín" (1935) and initiated the Zlín regional plan. His experience with the construction of the town was also utilised in corporate satellites (Baťov in Otrokovice, Borovo, Chelmek, Ottmuth) and in the adaptations of the surrounding municipalities. All throughout his demanding architectural and urban work, he continued to dedicate his time to sculpture.
František L. Gahura had great talent, a love of art, an unwavering will, and enormous dedication to his work. He enriched his hometown and the whole region with his architecturally thought-out, purposeful and boldly designed buildings. Zlín owes this architect and his enlightened investor Tomáš Baťa for its distinctive character as a city of greenery with wide open spaces. Gahura complemented the generous concept of the garden city with a master-plan for the entire region and became an urban planner on the European level.
As the company expanded, his activities spread beyond the borders of the republic to the satellite cities of the Baťa company. Although he was little known outside of Zlín, he not only created important and distinctive solitary structures in his time, but also conceived a unique, stylistically unified whole of the new industrial city.
Gahura also served as a member of the commissions and advisory boards for construction and architecture. Throughout his life, he maintained contacts with a number of important personalities of Czechoslovak culture. Close friendships and common views on art and architecture also connected him with the famous architect and artist Le Corbusier. He was involved in the establishment of nationwide art shows, the so-called Zlín Salons (since 1936) and the School of Art in Zlín (1939).
As a city architect and a permanent collaborator of the company, he was able to secure a job for many of his colleagues even in difficult times, such as Bohuslav Fuchs, Josef Gočár, Pavel Janák, and Jindřich Kumpošt. He was a member of the Koliba group and the Association of Fine Artists Mánes and also received important foreign awards (eg honorary diploma from the Triennale in Milan in 1933).
In 1945, soon after the end of World War II, an ideological anti-Bata mission began in Zlín, and the architect, like many of Baťa's other close associates, had to leave Zlín. All his positions were also revoked. The family moved to Brno, where Gahura got a job. However, his stay in Brno severely traumatised him. Life wounds, such as the death of his two children in 1934 and the loss of the Zlín background, undermined his health. In 1951, after a stroke, he retired and returned to sculpting.
He died on the night of 14th to 15th September, 1958 and is buried in the Forest Cemetery in Zlín (field 7, grave 141).