Fotografia House

Date 1959–1962
Architect Zdeněk Plesník
Code Z10
Address Třída Tomáše Bati 4008, Zlín
Public transport Public transport: Dlouhá (TROL 2, 4, 5, 9; BUS 33, 35, 36)
GPS 49.2258611N, 17.6681978E

The Fotografia Gottwaldov production cooperative started operations in 1950. The company soon became one of the largest providers of photographic services in the South Moravian Region, and by 1980 it had 250 employees. The cooperative boasted the most modern equipment (Japanese FUJI MINILAB 27F), the shortest delivery times for amateur photography (7 days for black and white, 21 for colour), and also the highest number of performed commissions, reaching a turnover of over CZK 9 million in 1970. The unrivalled position of the Gottwaldov cooperative was confirmed by a number of awards from Czech and international exhibitions. This reputation among local cooperatives was also reflected in the unique appearance of the main building in the city centre, which was built between 1959 and 1962 according to the design of Zdeněk Plesník, one of the most prominent architects of the post-war period. By the end of the 1950s, he already had a number of important realisations to his name, such as the Observatory in Valašské Meziříčí (1950–1956), Dopravní podnik (Transport Company) at Podvesná (1956), a radio transmitter in Beijing (1954–1956), and villas for travellers, Miroslav Zikmund (1954) and Jiří Hanzelka (1955). 
The building stands in the immediate vicinity of náměstí Míru, opposite the Church of St. Philip and St. James. The house was set on a long narrow plot between mixed-use town houses with business premises on the ground floor and accommodation on the upper floors. Surrounded by houses on three sides, the narrow plot was unsuitable for housing construction, but for the purposes of photo laboratories it was ideal, because the operation only required indirect lighting. The narrow plot allowed the architect to focus the main architectural character of the building on the façade towards Revoluční street (today Tomáš Baťa avenue).
The six-storey building with a basement and flat roof has a reinforced concrete structure with dimensions of 6 × 5.70 metres, close to the typical Baťa grid, which allows for flexibility in the interior layout. The load-bearing system includes two concrete columns with a circular cross-section projecting into the ground floor space with the main entrance. The protruding façade, running from the second to fifth floors, continues above them. The last, sixth, floor recedes, creating space for a terrace. The use of steel window profiles clad with polished aluminium was exceptional at the time and also costly. Plesník's style is manifested in the characteristic division of rectangular windows, where the concrete columns give the rhythm to the otherwise almost all-glass symmetrical main façade. 
The first floor is different from the above floors, as the windows are divided into three parts, with the central large-area glazing functioning as a canvas on which the studio would project the daily work of the photographic company. The architect also responds to the neighbouring buildings. One of them, from the side of the square, is the corner house of Marie and Eduard Trantírek, designed by the architect Viktor Jandásek. Light-coloured ceramic tiles - unusual in Zlín - appear on the Fotografia building as well as on this house. The distinctive front façade of the Fotografia House was appreciated for its unique expression and is often considered an intermediate stage or hybrid of the functionalist façade and curtain walls. The house is crowned with a special neon sign "fotografia". 
The interior design was also modern, progressive, and expensive for its time. From the ground floor, a double door led to a hall with a waiting room, reception, and services for amateur photographers. The space was dominated by an elegant monolithic spiral staircase connecting the ground floor with the first floor, where the main studio was designed for large formats. Behind it there was a small studio and another waiting room with accessories. On the second floor, there was a studio with a storage room and a charging chamber, and the waiting room was complemented by three makeup cubicles. The offices, along with telephone exchange rooms and locker rooms, were located on the third and fourth floors, and the rest of the space was used by laboratories for black-and-white amateur and studio photography. On the top floor there was a dining room with a snack bar, with the possibility of using the south terrace. On the north side there was a studio for retouching with direct lighting. A washroom with toilets was located on the mezzanines. 
The biggest intervention in the property took place in 1997, when the building was already privately owned and operating as a "business house". Despite the disapproval of the architect Zdeněk Plesník, the original windows were replaced with new aluminium profiles with reflective glass, the railing on the terrace was replaced by steel pipes, and the light ceramic tiles were replaced by new grey tiles in a different format (30 × 30 cm). Graphite grey replaced the light colour of the original façade, which was based on the natural shades of the materials used.
Plesník's original concept of a transparent house was completely destroyed by this insensitive modification. The individual floors of the building were gradually adapted to various operations - a furniture store, a tea room, a gambling club, a real estate agency, and other business concerns. The visual smog on the façade degrades the house that was once heralded, an acclaimed pride of post-war architecture. The last reminder of the famous era of the Fotografia cooperative is the operation of the minilab on the ground floor.