Tomáš Baťa Memorial
Architect František Lýdie Gahura
Trail From Square to Square
Address náměstí T. G. Masaryka 2570, Zlín
Public transport Public transport: Památník T. Bati (BUS 53)
GPS 49.2191372N, 17.6657828E
Monument preservation Tomáš Baťa Memorial is a monument listed under the number ÚSKP 29818/7-7101
The glazed prism standing on top of the sloping park terrain flanked by the boarding houses and supplemented by two Study Institutes is undoubtedly one of the most significant interwar structures in Zlín. Not only because of the carefully crafted, innovative and - in the environment of a strictly organised industrial city - unusually spiritual, emotional and artistic architectural design, but also because of the philosophical and social background in which the design of the Tomáš Baťa Memorial originated. The construction was completed in 1933 in a city stunned by the sudden death of the company's chief and mayor during an air crash in the summer of 1932, and opened on the occasion of the crash’s first anniversary. It represented an ideological monument to the founder of the company Tomáš Baťa and his character traits, which were an important catalyst for the boom of not only the shoe industry in Zlín. Architect František Lýdie Gahura, a long-time collaborator of Baťa, who was for the most part responsible for the urban design of the corporate town in the gardens, set out to represent in the architecture of the memorial Baťa's generosity, truth, aspiration, optimism and simplicity.
The building, which also contained a replica of the plane in which Tomáš Baťa died, was conceived as an airy three-storey transparent hall. In the form of the Memorial, Gahura fully demonstrated the flexibility of the Baťa architecture construction system arising from the aesthetics of factory buildings. For public buildings it was possible to apply even larger deviations from the usual brick infill in a reinforced concrete skeleton. In fact, Gahura's "variation on the same structural theme" completely eliminated the bricks. The architect considered them to be a too museum-like material, and thus came up with a modern, completely glazed facade, because "more light can do no harm“1. At the same time, he gives the building a significantly vertical composition, by letting the continuous round columns of the structure that span the entire height of the façade, protrude partially from the volume of the building. He further supports this effect visually with long strips of windows mounted in fine steel frames. As a trained sculptor, Gahura treats the mass of the monument in a highly plastic manner. The light and airy interior of the monument remains almost completely empty, permeated only by the regular rhythm of the supporting pillars (6 × 3 modular fields) and by a straight staircase to the upper floor.
At the same time, the memorial served as an exhibition dedicated to the personality of Tomáš Baťa, the historic artefacts associated with him, his public activities and the company's activities in the region and the country. Zdeněk Rossmann, leftist architect and stage designer and active in the circles of Brno's Devětsil, was the author of a modernist installation in 1934.
The memorial was severely damaged when the glass facade was shattered during the bombing of Zlín in 1944, but in particular, the subsequent post-war reconstruction of the building into the House of Arts according to the plans of architect Eduard Staša did the structure no favours. With the change of political regime in the state, Baťa's monument was deprived of its former function; the capitalist entrepreneur was to be forgotten in the city of Zlín now renamed Gottwaldov. At the same time, its austere minimalist expression was transformed. To the previously light, translucent walls were attached massive brick outbuildings on the sides, serving as staircases and offices. The formerly continuous, undivided interior was partitioned into floors, which served as a concert hall and background for the local symphony orchestra and as an exhibition space for the Gottwaldov Regional Gallery of Fine Arts.
The building operated this way for the whole of the second half of the 20th century, and the new millennium brought discussions about what it should become after the Philharmonic and the Regional Gallery were relocated to new premises. Its overall renewal, whose preparation took more than a decade, was carried out in 2016–2019 according to plans by the architect Petr Všetečka from the Transat architekti studio in Brno. It was performed in the spirit of careful restoration, and brought excellent results reflecting current conservation and architectural approaches to the restoration of modern cultural monuments. In addition, historical poor quality layers of work were completely removed.
The crystal-clear cubed mass of the object thus showed again in full force. Materially, the house returned to Gahura's preferred concrete, glass and steel. The author's idea of the monument as a glowing landmark in the night time city came to the fore again. Thanks to the transparent patterned glass, the blurred views of the surrounding greenery were renewed, which, together with the changing light penetrating the glass walls, complete the cathedral-like atmosphere of the monument. In addition, the renovation restored the original colours - the blue on the inside of the staircase walls, together with the whiteness of the supporting columns and the red floors (on the upper floor uncovered in their original form), together creating the motif of the Czech tricolour. The straight staircase, removed during the reconstruction into the House of Arts was also re-inserted into the memorial space, evoking the letter Z as Zlín from the side view. Since 2019 the building has been open to the public again as the Tomáš Baťa Memorial and it gives visitors the opportunity to experience the strongest qualities of Zlín's Baťa architecture.