New Main Gate of Svit

  • Antonín Cekota, Baťa, Menschen und Werk , Zlín 1935
The beginnings of the Zlín business by the three Baťa siblings - Antonín, Anna and Tomáš - in 1894 are connected to the house of their aunt Rozálie Červinková on Dlouhá Street and subsequently with the rented premises in house no. 63 on Zlín square. After the introduction of duck cloth footwear manufacturing, the Baťa siblings had a residential house, office and workshop built in 1900 in the immediate vicinity of the Zlín railway station. Before World War I, the growing production plant was supplemented by a three-storey factory building, which became the centre of the company's production for the next decade. The operation in the building was further supplemented by a new two-storey warehouse for finished footwear and a ground-floor weaving mill; the existing office building was supplemented by an extension. The emerging factory complex, which at that time occupied the area of ​​today's 16th and 15th buildings, already required a systematic control of access to the workplace. Narrative sources about Tomáš Baťa state that the work in the "security service" was provided by deserving elderly workers. Among its founders we would also find Hubert Klaus, the second husband of the half-sister of the Baťa siblings Josefa, née Bartošová. 
A fundamental change in business was brought about by the First World War, when the company T. & A. Baťa gained an exclusive position in providing footwear for the Austro-Hungarian army. The hitherto small factory production concentrated in a few buildings spread over an area of several hectares in a short period of time. 

First entrance (gatehouse at the train station) 

Apart from the faded photograph of two security guards in front of the factory gates and one behind the window of a small wooden hut, only a few authentic records have been preserved of the first stable gatehouse located in the immediate vicinity of the train station. In addition to entry control and surveillance of buildings, fire protection can be added to its functions. Due to the earlier feverish construction of war buildings based on primitive wooden structures, which were repeatedly subject to small and large fires, the functioning of a stable fire patrol was indispensable for the continuing existence of the plant. It is also clear from sources that when the Baťa management (Tomáš Baťa, Josef Blažek, Václav Rojt, František Klátil, Antonín Jambor and others) learned to organise the work of several thousand employees in securing the supply of footwear for the army, some personnel-registration services were also connected to the gatehouse. The register with the required attendance hours, together with the file, where since the First World War each employee had his/her employee card, was one of the basic working tools of the human resources of the time.

Second entrance (gatehouse at office building no. 2) 

After overcoming the post-war economic crisis which lasted for approximately five years, a new economic boom heralded the development of the construction industry. The factory complex grew south and west. The new construction was carried out in accordance with previously-developed and continuously-supplemented master plans designed by architect F. L. Gahura. Wartime temporary wooden halls gave way to a new standardised construction system of factory buildings. The construction of a new three-storey administrative building (today's building no. 2 - House of Culture) in 1923–1924 involved the relocation of the main entrance to the factory. Part of the entrance area was a new brick gatehouse built between 1924 and 1925, to which a parallel medical ambulance building was added in 1925. In the case of the gatehouse building, it was a two-storey brick fourplex, with a basement underneath part of the building. It was built of face bricks, the construction of the ceilings and flat roof was wooden, covered with cardboard. The building was equipped with two wooden staircases. On the first floor were apartments for concierges. The larger ground floor building of the medical surgery had a similar construction.
Since the gate at the new office building No. 2 served as the main employee access to the complex since 1925, the entrance for business partners visiting the office building, and also the truck entrance, its construction had to serve thousands of incoming workers without delay and safely filter out the uninvited from the invited visitors.
Part of the solution was the double fencing of the entrance areas. The gatehouse building was surrounded by a massive iron fence, which continued towards the office building, which it also bypassed from the outside. The iron gate allowed the porters to stop every visitor in order to review their documentation, who could then accompany them to the desired destination as needed. After passing through the narrowed passage of the gate at the gatehouse, the Baťa employees headed for the second row of fencing enclosing the space between the ambulance building and the annex to the administrative building No. 2. In the right half of the inner fence there were several covered corridors equipped with attendance clocks. In the left half there was a gate, which opened to cars checked in at the outer gate.
The functionality of the entrance areas and their aesthetic design were addressed with the same care. In addition to the careful design of the office building, gatehouse and ambulance, the entrance area included cobbled sidewalks, paved gravel roads, parking for company managers' cars, green belts around the buildings, and a number of deciduous trees with regularly trimmed crowns. The new entry solution left no one in doubt that this was a new representative space of the Baťa company.


Third entrance (main gate at building no. 11) 

When, even after the construction of the second five-storey office building No. 3 in the early 1930s, the Baťa management still did not have enough office space to manage the global enterprise, it was decided to build a new representative 16-storey office building No. 21. At the onset of the construction works on the “skyscraper” the main entrance to the complex was transferred between building no. 11 and the ambulance building. As the main gate was to connect to the pedestrian sidewalks from náměstí Práce (Labour Square) and with its capacity to handle the daily influx of up to seventeen thousand employees, in 1936, two fields with a total length of 12.30 m were demolished from the east side of factory building No. 11., making it two fields shorter in comparison to the rest of the structures with 13 fields. The misalignment of the "eleventh" building in the checkerboard layout of the premises was of an older date and was not related to the establishment of the main gate; the reason was the original tracing of the then cancelled railway siding, which connected the factory complex with a nearby brickyard.
Due to the changes made in the logistics of the area operation, the transfer of representative premises closer to the 21st building and, last but not least, due to political events, there were changes in the use of space around the gatehouse at the turn of the 1930s and 1940s. The original main gate at building no. 2 continued to be used as an entrance for truck transport; a roofed car gate and unloading ramp were built in 1940 on the site of the former internal fencing. The original gatehouse building was adapted into a German customs office in 1941, and an anti-aircraft shelter and warehouse were set up in the basement. In the surgery building an accommodation department and the security guards were located for a long time. Since 1941, the ČEDOK travel agency was operating in it, requiring minor building adaptations. After the war, a store of KSČ party newspapers was placed in the vacated front part of this building. After the establishment of the new main gate, the agenda of the gatehouse was transferred to building No. 11, adapted from shoemaking for administrative purposes; a small glass extension placed at its northeast corner protected the concierge from bad weather.
From 1936, the entrance gate consisted of light metal double-leaf gates enclosed on both sides by a series of narrow corridors of welded iron bars and equipped with a short sheet metal roof, where incoming employees registered using suspended attendance clocks. This simple design was chosen in order to enhance the impression when looking at the factory complex from the higher parts of náměstí Práce. In bad weather, however, this solution proved impractical, so after the war, the gate was equipped with a more spacious metal roof. In later years, this solution gave way to utilitarian brick extensions and added sheets of unsightly solid sheet metal.

Modification of the third entrance (new main gate of Svit) 

The main entrance to the premises, from which thousands of workers flowed at regular intervals, became an increasingly significant collision point on the main thoroughfare through Zlín leading by the northern side of náměstí Práce. In contrast to the original Baťa idea, which intended to place the growing traffic below ground level, traffic was given priority in the urban design in the 1970s. The pedestrian connection with náměstí Práce was solved by an underpass connected to the newly built entrance to the Svit company. The two-storey entrance gate to the complex with internal facilities for security staff was designed by architect Ladislav Pastrnek. Its robust forms with protruding arcades were in 1993 complemented by the post-modern project of the ABS shopping centre by architect Jiří Gebrian, which completed the significantly altered form of the entrance gate and the area in front of the surgery.

Additional entrances (side gates) 


Due to the location of the main gate and the size of the factory premises, it was not practical for all employees to go through the main entrance. The requirement to open alternative gates to the complex was also supported in the post-war period by the delimitation of factory production between several independent national companies, which then had various compact building units in the complex. With regard to transport services and assigned workplaces, in addition to the main entrance, employees also used the rear gate at building no. 91 and the middle gate at building no. 51, both accessible from the main street, or the gate at building no. 16, connected to the local train station.


Martin Marek