From Square to Square

Trail begins náměstí Míru
First object Náměstí Míru

Public transport: Náměstí Míru (TROL 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 13; BUS 31, 32, 33, 35, 36, 53, 70, 90)

The Zlín city centre is spread over two squares situated not far from each other. The design of each of them refers to the specific time in which they were formed.
The historical náměstí Míru (Peace Square) is first mentioned at the end of the 16th century. First it was called Rynek (until 1887), then the Square, its lower part Na korábě (until 1918), then Masarykovo náměstí (Masaryk Square - until 1925), locally known as Hlavní náměstí (Main Square), then later náměstí Míru. The almost square-shaped ground plan was surrounded by low, mostly one-storey buildings of local merchants and craftsmen, with long plots of land behind them.
The simple character of the buildings reflecting the country-like settlement was disrupted by the first historic buildings of the civic union and the secondary school, which gave the historic square a more urban appearance, and in 1924 a representative building of the new town hall was added. By the 1920s, Zlín was transformed into an industrial city, where, in addition to the dominant Baťa factory, 6 other shoe companies operated. The wealthier entrepreneurs were also the contracting authority for buildings created by architects independent of the Baťa company, the most important of which were Miroslav Lorenc and Viktor Jandásek. New buildings combining the commercial function in the parterre with the residential function on the upper floors were designed by architects from outside of Zlín. The fundamental changes in the form of the city took place after 1923, when Tomáš Baťa won the municipal elections. He became the mayor and Zlín became one of the economic capitals, the showcase of the new republic.
All these ambitions, expectations of continuous growth and modernist belief in progress and scientific knowledge are evident in the plans for náměstí Práce (Labour Square) – this was the new Baťa centre, which gradually emerged in close proximity to the nearby production facility. The 6.15 × 6.15 m grid of the factory structural system was also applied to public and school buildings - the variable use of this principle has resulted in a clearly recognisable aesthetic with distinct architectural qualities. The new square was designed for the needs of a rapidly developing industrial giant. Department stores with restaurants and canteens led employees, and young men and women, to the ways of urban living and consumption habits.
Náměstí Práce served as the second social and representative centre of the city. Spacious public buildings (the Market Hall) partially made up for the lack of capacity inside the old historic core. The tall buildings of the Department Store and the Social House lined the large boulevards for the crowds of thousands of employees (called co-workers), neon lights glowed at night, and the May Day rally regularly took place here. In the 1920s the Market Hall became the centre of social life, then later the cinema with a capacity of over 2,000 seats. The high-rise buildings, designed to accommodate the large crowds, gave impetus to the plans to complete the square.
Similar projects, however, such as those by František Lýdie Gahura, Bohuslav Fuchs or Josef Gočár, remained unused as a result of World War II and social changes after 1948. Popular functional public space was gradually replaced by concrete parking spaces, while green areas near the department store stopped serving for recreation. Their role has only recently been replaced by the revitalised lower part of the Gahura Boulevard, which serves for relaxation and also connects pedestrian routes leading to the historic centre.
Along with náměstí Práce, another public space took shape in the 1920s and 1930s - the park-like boulevard, today's náměstí Tomáše G. Masaryka (Tomáš G. Masaryk Square). The green strip of land is flanked by the Baťa dormitories and the school district, which was dominated by the now non-existent Masaryk's Schools (nowadays there is the Congress Centre and TBU Library).
The tour through the historically most valuable part of the city - the square, its immediate surroundings and the castle hill - offers a view of the transformation of Zlín during the 20th and 21st centuries, showing different approaches to modern architectural interventions at the heart of the conservation area, be it through new buildings, renovations of historic architecture or the treatment of public space. Using more than a dozen examples, and bringing attention to the complex restoration of historic objects, one can see how modern and contemporary architecture complements and influences the historic environment.