Experimental Hotel-type Corridor House (Drofa)

Date 1959–1963 (P)
Architect Miroslav Drofa
Code Z5
Address Zálešná 4057, Zlín
Public transport Public transport: Padělky IX (TROL 2, 4, 5, 8)
GPS 49.2322597N, 17.6843400E

A unique high-rise building was built on the edge of the Zálešná residential district in the first half of the 1960s. With its architectural form, it clearly refers to the local building tradition and the city's Baťa past, but it was created in a completely different political context as part of a nationwide experimental construction.
Architect Miroslav Drofa, then working in the Gottwaldov project organisation Centroprojekt, had been working on the design of the ten-storey boarding house, already referred to in the design documentation as the "Drofa" type by its author, since 1959. From the 1930s, Drofa participated in the development of the typology of standardised corporate housing at the Baťa company. After the Second World War, his projects of Morýs tower houses and apartment houses from 1947-1950 stood out, which shifted family life in the city towards multi-storey rental accommodation with collectively used services such as a nursery, laundry, dining room, and club rooms.
With the passage of another decade, after two collective houses were realised in Litvínov and Gottwaldov, the official authorities managing residential construction in Czechoslovakia, led by the Ministry of Construction and based on the expert recommendations of the Research Institute of Construction and Architecture (Výzkumný ústav výstavby a architektury), decided to devote more space to experimental forms of housing. They were supposed to test new technologies and constructions, materials, layouts, and housing types and then apply them on a mass scale in order to achieve the most economical and fastest possible results. Along with the Družba residential house by Arnošt Kubečka, Drofa's hotel house represents the Gottwaldov experimental construction.
Hotel-type houses were to focus on temporary housing for one-person and two-person households, for which it was not necessary to establish the extensive and expensive facilities that family life requires. Recreational facilities common to all residents were supposed to increase living comfort. In addition to Gottwaldov, at the beginning of the 1960s, hotel-type houses also appeared in České Budějovice, Prague, and Olomouc. Drofa's house, completed at the end of 1963, offered small apartments with minimal kitchenettes in the hall for childless residents and the elderly. A nearby separate two-storey pavilion with commercial and social services was later also available to the residents. The original plans assumed that it would be connected to the house by a corridor.
The hotel building is situated between the Fryštácký brook (often called Januštice) and a residential area with a low development of workers' semi-detached houses. Several of them had to be pulled down to give way to the new development. Thanks to its size, it visually dominates the entire area. Together with other high-rise buildings from the 1960s (high-rise buildings by the architect Adolf Zikmund on Ševcovská Street, and the residential building on Sokolská Street by Miloš Totušek), they form a significant presence in the city horizon.
The ten residential floors are supported by a reinforced concrete skeleton with a module of 6 × 6 m, whose round columns spanning the entire height of the façade were made using special steel formwork. The individual modules are filled with brick infills, while under the windows there are concrete decorative panels with a wavy surface. The strip windows are made of steel.
The massive, imposing volume of the house is enlivened by the playful rhythm of the decoratively designed cladding (slag concrete in white and burgundy colours), the covered terrace on the top floor, and the popular perforated concrete prefabs of the terrace and loggias on the side façades. The main entrance to the house, facing towards the stream, is accentuated by a short staircase and an inconspicuous concrete roof. The eastern façade is divided by a strip of staircase windows across the entire width of the module with a central line of glass blocks, which the architect had already used before on the Morýs houses.
The layout of the building is based on a design with a narrow central corridor and housing units on both sides, facing east and west. Vertical connection is provided by two personal lifts for six people in the centre of the layout and a U-shaped staircase adjacent to the eastern façade. The majority of the total number of 173 residential units are one-room apartments with an entrance hall with a small kitchenette, a bathroom with a bathtub, and a toilet. There are also 26 studio apartments the size of half the module, which are opposite the elevators. In the basement there were laundries, drying rooms, cellars, and a waste incinerator, and on the ground floor the caretaker's apartment.
During the preparations and the actual construction of the hotel building, the layout of the living spaces was intensely discussed and changed under the pressure of financial constraints, and because the choice of materials was limited (unavailability of rubber flooring, glass blocks, cancellation of the planned chipboard partitions).
Since 2000, the house has been listed and is owned by the statutory city of Zlín, which is why its architectural appearance has been preserved in quite an authentic state. Despite the partial alterations, the interiors still contain a number of original details, such as wooden swing doors and terrazzo floors in the hall and on the staircase, herring bone wooden floors, built-in wardrobes, and door panels in some of the apartments, and metal grilles covering the radiators in the corridors. The city is planning a total renovation and at the same time restoring one residential unit as a model to its original condition.