Ludvík Gerbec Villa

Date 1937–1938
Architect Vladimír Karfík
Code Z7
Address Zálešná I 3222, Zlín
Public transport Public transport: Padělky IX (2, 4, 8)
GPS 49.2327108N, 17.6849394E
Monument preservation Ludvík Gerbec Villa is a monument listed under the number ÚSKP 50897 / 7-8954

The construction of the Zálešná and Podvesná districts of Baťa housing, this time in the eastern part of the town by the Dřevnice River, began in 1926. The districts were built en masse using standardised duplexes of the new type "1927". They were sometimes built with a flat roof, but more often a pitched roof. This element distinguishes Zálešná from other corporate residential districts. The house of Ludvík Gerbec, which lies on the western edge of the district, stands out significantly from standardised housing. The villa was designed in 1937 by architect Vladimír Karfík, head of the Construction Department. It is one of the experimental buildings created in the search for modern forms of family housing, appearing during the time of the rapid economic development of the company and the resulting growth of construction in the second half of the 1930s. The main goal was to improve living standards by creating greater comfort, expanding spatial conditions, and using new building technologies. A milestone in these efforts was the international competition in 1935 to design a new family house, whose jury included, among others, the Swiss architect, Le Corbusier.
In his 1930s designs of the director's villas for the top managers of the Baťa company Karfík reflected his experience from an internship abroad in Frank Lloyd Wright's studio in the USA. Karfík paraphrased Wright's so-called "prairie" houses by emphasising the horizontality and plasticity of the buildings, extending a relatively flat hipped roof, which in the southeast created a covered entrance porch, an open space or a cross-shaped layout of the whole building with the vertical differentiation of perpendicular wings. A specific Wright-like element is the corner windows on the ground floor. All this is combined with the standard parameters of compact and economical Baťa housing, such as the use of face brick masonry, and the integration of the buildings into the generous surrounding greenery.
Gerbec's villa went through two construction phases, one immediately following the other. In the first phase, in 1937, the house was conceived as a single-family house with a cellar under part of the layout, and with a hipped roof. On the ground floor there was a living room connected to the dining room, and a kitchen with utility rooms, while in the vertical wing there was a room for a maid and a garage. Upstairs had two bedrooms and a bathroom. In the second construction phase in 1938, the building, which had not yet been approved, was extended by a study and a winter garden connected to the living room, to which a protruding bay window was added, and a fireplace was installed. The flat roof of the larger extension created a spacious terrace on the first floor.
Gerbec's house stands out from the environment of standardised corporate detached houses, compared to which it offers a better living standard. However, it does not achieve the individualisation and luxury that the architect Karfík subsequently accomplished in the director's villas. The basis here is still the same Baťa form, in which the individual modifications of the project radically increased the comfort and better developed the spatial layout. A change in the project during implementation may be related to the additional designation for a specific tenant. While the first proposal is referred to only as the "House with a hipped roof", the modified plans are named as "Mr. Gerbec's House". Ludvík Gerbec, son of dr. Rudolf Gerbec, a close collaborator and family doctor of Tomáš Baťa and a physician for the entire company, lived in the house for only a brief time. Gerbec Jr. worked in management positions in Zlín and abroad. As early as 1938, when the villa was completed, he was sent to Best in the Netherlands, a year later he continued to Belcamp in the USA, and finally in 1940 he ended up in the Philippines, where he established a new company branch during the war. He was arrested and imprisoned by the Japanese in 1944 for actively supporting the resistance. The conditions of the imprisonment undermined his health. After the war, the whole family moved back to the United States, where Ludvík Gerbec died in 1960.
After 1948, their original house in Zlín was adapted into a nursery for the Svit national enterprise, and in 1958 the upper terrace was built. Gradually, the building was degraded by further modifications in its internal layout as well as by expanding the ground floor with a porch and two wooden extensions at the entrance from the street. The garage was replaced by a paved parking space. Very little of the original craftsmanship and equipment has been preserved. At the beginning of the 1990s, the building gained its current use as a day care centre for the elderly operated by a Zlín Charity. In 2001, it was designated a listed building. The original garden with an area of 3500 m2 was reduced. Today the house stands almost in the shadow of the "Drofa" high-rise apartment building, which was erected in the early 1960s.