Jan Antonín Baťa Villa

Date 1926–1927
Code Z7
Address Osvoboditelů 187, Zlín
Public transport Public transport: Školní (TROL 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, BUS 31, 32, 33, 35, 36, 38, 53, 70, 90) Zimní lázně
GPS 49.2227522N, 17.6690775E

Most of the privileged and higher-ranking employees of the Baťa company lived in company houses in the newly-formed housing colonies. Jan Antonín Baťa lived in one of these houses, in the now non-existent part of the town called Bethlehem, with his family: his wife Maria Gerbecová (daughter of the important Zlín doctor Rudolf Gerbec), and their three daughters. These spaces were tight for a growing family, however, which is why Jan Antonín intended to build his own home. According to Miroslav Ivanov, his decision led to a rift with his half-brother Tomáš Baťa, who demanded that he live in the same way as other employees, in company accomodation. The result was the temporary departure of Jan Antonín from the company and his subsequent re-admission. The exact details of the dispute are not known, however. Archival sources reveal that in September 1926, J. A. Baťa received a building permit for work in Nadkostelí Street (today's Osvoboditelů Street).
The two-storey family villa is located above the road, in the middle of a large plot of land. The plans are signed by the construction company Zlámal and Plaček, but the exact architect is not known. František Lýdie Gahura, who may have played the role of consultant, is mentioned as one of the possible but unconfirmed designers. Stylistically, the villa could be included in the rational modernism of Jan Kotěra, which is characterised by simplicity of shape and the use of the aesthetic effects of raw building materials. The main volume of the house with a floor plan of about 12x12 metres is supplemented on the south side by a concave segment along the entire height of the house. The concave façade is broken by four narrow windows separated by window pillars, while the the lintels are made of white bricks. The house was entered from Nadkostelí Street, where an open staircase led to a landing on the roof of the garage, which was built separately outside the house. On the ground floor of the villa there was a dining room, two bedrooms, a kitchen with a pantry, and a toilet. Upstairs there were two bedrooms, three other rooms, and a bathroom with a pantry. The cellar was built under the entire ground floor. On November 3, 1927, the villa was approved. It is an example of the more generous use of Baťa's building aesthetics, with its technical equipment and spatial possibilities it exceeded usual housing standards.
Four years later in 1931, the villa was extended to a floor plan of 17x12 metres. At that time, Jan Antonín Baťa and his wife already had five children and he had attained a higher position in the company. In the northern part of the house, where the extension was built, a new space was created for the kitchen, pantry, hall, study, and maid's room. Three more guest rooms, two bathrooms, and a room for the son were added upstairs. The project for the extension was created in the Construction Department of the Baťa company, which was headed by F. L. Gahura. As with the first plans, however, the name of the architect is not stated in the documentation. Another intervention, changing the layout of the building, was designed in 1937 by Vladimír Karfík. The main entrance was moved to the western facade, where a new entrance hall with a concrete roof was created; the lee was supplemented with glass blocks. The bathroom and niche with a built-in wardrobe were relocated here. These modifications also included an access road with a turnabout for cars and a flower arrangement in the middle, a swimming pool, a playground with a gazebo, and a modest park. A ground floor house was also built there for Jan Antonín's mother, where she lived until 1939, and after her death the house was demolished.
Interventions from the 1930s did not disrupt the original architectural concept, however. The regular, moderate order of the house on the stone plinth is determined by the red face brick masonry contrasting with the white sand lime bricks. These are mounted under the stretched cornice, framing window sills and lintels. The columns on the roof are also built of white bricks, between which a tubular railing is placed, also in white. The little we know about the appearance of the interior, we can establish from family photographs and memories of witnesses. They show that the rather modest, burgher-style rooms complemented the representative rooms on the ground floor: a hall with a corner fireplace made of polished stone, marble window sills, sliding doors with side showcases, leather furniture and J. A. Bata's study with built-in furniture and wood paneling.
In May 1939, J. A. Baťa left with his family for the United States and later for Brazil, where he remained until his death in 1965. During the war, a housewife took care of the villa and a company clerk lived there. After the war, J. A. Baťa was accused of treason and his property was confiscated. In 1948, the villa housed the Union of Friends of the USSR. That is when the gradual decay of the villa and the extensive garden began, where a collective house was built with a nursery and a transformation station. Since 1951, Czech Radio has been operating in the villa. The interiors were changed several times for broadcasting, some window and roof openings were walled up, and the utility entrance from the north side was closed. Despite the changes, the exterior of the house has been basically preserved, the interior still has Baťa's study, and massive wooden tiles, a fireplace and other original materials and elements remain in the hall. The rehabilitation of Jan Antonín Baťa's name did not take place until 2007. For many years, there was a dispute over the return of the villa to the heirs, but the court rejected this claim in 2010 and the building still serves as the seat of the Czech Radio Zlín.