Family Houses of the Podřevnicko Building Cooperative

Date 1932–1933
Architect Miroslav Lorenc
Code Z14
Address Kamenná 2494; 2495; 2497, Prlovská 2486; 2488; 2489; 2490; 2500; 2501, Pod Vodojemem 2492; 2493; 2498; 2499, Zlín
Public transport Public transport: Slovenská (TROL 1, 3, 8, 11, 12, 13; BUS 90)
GPS 49.2225269N, 17.6767525E
49.2212125N, 17.6773519E
49.2222911N, 17.6757203E

In September 1931, the city of Zlín allocated land to Obecně prospěšné stavební a bytové družstvo Podřevnicko (Beneficial Building and Housing Cooperative Podřevnicko), in Zlín. In Přední Díly and Rumy, near the former cemetery, they provided plots for the construction of twenty-one family houses, which were to occupy a block of three streets after completion. The price for the sale of the land also included the construction of streets and sewers in the emerging district, which was carried out by the municipal authority. Similar to other cities, cooperative members used the then popular Act No. 45/1930 Coll. on the construction industry, which offered state financial guarantees. With the coming economic crisis, this law was an important impetus to support construction.
Miroslav Lorenc became the architect whom the representatives of the cooperative approached for cooperation. It was one of the first projects that the architect implemented after leaving the Baťa company. In the Podřevnicko residential colony, he used his experience in designing houses and apartments for the widest range of residents, to whom he wanted to offer a "cheap and practical family home." He prepared similar designs for a colony of family houses in Spišská Belá in Slovakia and for family houses from the Smallest House competition, which was launched by the Czechoslovak Werkbund (Svaz československého díla) in 1929.
Miroslav Lorenc designed three types of two-storey houses in a modern functionalist style for the cooperative. Fine, light villas have a simple cubic shape, a flat roof, individual types differ in size, which is determined by the number of rooms. The character of the modern district is emphasised by smooth façades with mostly rectangular three-part windows, which refer to the internal layout of the rooms. The houses are set on a slope, so the entrance is several steps above the road and covered by a subtle concrete roof.
A tubular nautical railing is typical for all houses, which, in addition to the entrance, is also used on the terrace in two types of houses. Similar to the corporate districts, the houses here are also supposed to meet the ideal of garden colonies, where each building has a small landscaped garden. The owners are supposed to live in the countryside, separated from the noise of mechanised work places. As with the houses in Baťov, here too Lorenc did not assume a lifespan of several generations. During the next twenty to thirty years, when the construction was to be paid for, there was to be a revision of the functional requirements, the result of which could be the demolition of the old house and the construction of a new one.
After the completion of the construction of the Podřevnicko cooperative colony, Lorenc summarised the efforts for economical use of space and material into several principles in an article published in the magazine Zlín. The first of the applied principles was the logical separation of living spaces from bedrooms and the exclusion of all unnecessary rooms. A household that did not have a maid should have a smaller kitchen so that the lady has everything at hand. The architect also focused on the entrance hall or vestibule, from which there is access to all rooms, including the staircase leading to the first floor.
In the press of the time, attention was paid to type 1a and type 2. The first of them was intended for a family of four to five. On the ground floor there is a living room with a kitchen, a pantry, and a bathroom protruding from the rectangular floor plan to form a terrace for the rooms on the upper floor. In the middle of the layout is a straight staircase leading to the floor with two bedrooms. According to the architect's calculations, the house was supposed to cost around 52,000 CZK.
Type 2 is more spacious. The ground floor is extended by one room and the dining area is connected to the kitchen. On the ground floor there is a pantry, a toilet, and a hall, where there is also a straight staircase that leads to the first floor with three rooms, a bathroom, and a small veranda. This house with 5 rooms was supposed to cost 64,000 CZK. These two types were mainly built in the Podřevnicko colony.
Lorenc's last proposal was the most economical and modest in terms of space. The family house type 1 consisted of only one room with a kitchen, and service rooms on the ground floor, with two bedrooms and a bathroom with a bathtub situated on the upper floor. All the houses had basements with a laundry room and a smaller cellar for coal.
Miroslav Lorenc used various, often not very well-known materials for construction. An example is the so-called “mentor” masonry with a width of 20 cm, which was purported to show the same thermal insulation properties as brick masonry with a thickness of 66 cm. It consists of brick blocks with cavities, and was produced by the company in Hodonín. The width of the walls varied, some rooms were only 30 cm thick and were lined with 3 cm “Hodo” blocks, which were supposed to guarantee better insulation. Most houses were equipped with central heating or so-called hollow heating, which was operated from the basement landing and heated the entire ground floor.
Twenty-one detached houses were built based on the cooperative's planning documentation. New rooms, garages, and sheds were added to most of them soon after completion, and the original white plasters have not been preserved. In many of the houses not even the original structure is recognisable today. Nevertheless, a walk along Prlovská and Kamenná streets is an important part of the route dedicated to the architect Miroslav Lorenc. It was an exceptional architectural feat in which the architect made use of his previous experience as well as knowledge of international examples. The Podřevnicko colony was presented in professional magazines, on a par with the Prague settlement of Baba.