Experimental Unit of the Collective House

Date 1948–1950
Code Z5
Address třída Tomáše Bati 3756, Zlín
Public transport Public transport: Věžové domy 6 (BUS 31, 70)
GPS 49.2247692N, 17.6884664E

The collective house in Zlín was created at a time when the city was working intensively to find a suitable building type and technology for modern post-war housing. In addition to the multi-storey brick buildings spread along today's tř. Tomáše Bati (apartment and tower houses by Miroslav Drofa, Karfík's three-storey houses in Obeciny), the construction of houses from prefabricated had been an ongoing experiment since the war years. These efforts to industrialise architecture resulted in 1953 in the first residential house made of structural panels in the country, referred to as the G40 type.
The collective house, completed only two years earlier, in 1951, according to the design of the architect Jiří Voženílek, brought into the discussion the concept of corporate housing with shared services of a dining room, nursery and kindergarten, club rooms, and a gym. Although the twelve-storey high-rise building used the traditional Baťa reinforced concrete skeleton filled with brickwork, it was supposed to have a different span of 7.35 m and a number of other technological and structural innovations. Therefore, a test experimental residential cell was to be made first, which served as an accurate model to verify internal equipment and contribute to the subsequent smooth and trouble-free implementation of the collective house.
The experimental cell project was prepared in the autumn of 1948 by Jiří Voženílek in collaboration with Miroslav Drofa. According to the conditions of the building permit, its construction was to be part of the total number of housing units in the collective house, and therefore did not require special allocations of material. The ground-floor structure with a rectangular floor plan with a built-up area of 94 m2 stands on the edge of the Díly district, near workers' family houses within sight of the tower blocks. It was completed in the spring of 1950.
A model cell the size of one two-room apartment is, like the entire collective house, formed using a load-bearing reinforced concrete frame with brick infills. The skeleton of the cell standing on concrete belt foundations carries reinforced concrete ceilings; the existing formwork was modified for its implementation. The southern façade is characterised by massive glazing using strips of windows separated by concrete pillars. The windows have a size of 1.05 m between the mullions, which is the basic unit measure of the modular system of 7.35 x 7.35 m. There is also a balcony suspended just above the ground on the south with a typical perforated concrete railing.
The entrance to the house, with double wing wooden doors and a short protruding staircase, was orientated to the east. From there, you entered a hall with an adjoining storage room with a small ventilation window, and then entered a living unit furnished identically to the apartments in the collective house. On the side of the walk-through cloakroom with a built-in wardrobe, there was an artificially lit economical kitchen corner and a bathroom with a bathtub and a toilet.
The materials used for the floor coverings were diverse: rubber flooring in the dressing room and kitchen was complemented by fireclay tiles in the bathroom, terrazzo in the hall, and cement screed in the storage room. The bedroom and living room, with wooden herringbone floors and smooth lime plasters, were well lit by the strip window running across the full length of the south side. The living rooms were separated from each other by lightweight, mountable insulating boards, which could be moved according to the plans (attached to the posts between the windows), and thus the layout of the rooms could be changed as needed. The cell was connected to the municipal sewage network, water supply, and central heating. The experimental cell of the collective house made it possible to test on a small scale of one residential unit the spatial, layout and material qualities, which soon appeared in a prominent building in the city centre. 
In 1971, the experimental cell was expanded on the east side with a veranda, the main entrance was moved into the house, and the layout was also changed. The original miniature kitchen, the dimensions of which responded to the planned availability of meals in the common dining room in the collective house, was moved to the space of the former hall. The storage room became another bedroom and the entrance hall was transferred in the new veranda. The current unsatisfactory state of the property is due to a number of alterations. Wooden windows in iron frames were replaced with plastic ones, one of the windows on the southern facade was bricked up, and the typical prefabricated balcony was removed in 2014. Nevertheless, the specific format and construction of the family house, which is ideologically inseparably connected with the unique high-rise collective house on the other side of the city, is still recognisable.