Thanks to Tomáš Baťa, a small village once bearing the name Zlaté Jablko (Golden Apple) was transformed beyond recognition. This Czech self-made man founded his factory here in 1894 and in the coming years, Zlín was born and the success of Baťa’s company completely determined the look of the emerging city.
A crown saved is a crown gained! Apart from being a great entrepreneur, Father Baťa was also a bit of a cognitive psychologist. He found prices ending in a nine (like 89,99) to be much more attractive to his customers and soon his pricing policy spread to the entire world.
Even the slogans and catchphrases had their psychological impact, as they would nurture a sense of belonging to the company’s philosophy in Baťa’s employees. Remnants of that can be found all around Zlín up to this day. “DNES, NE ZÍTRA!” (Today, not tomorrow!) – How many can you find?
Baťa’s genius loci
Extraordinary urbanism and architecture. Brick. Glass. Brick. Steel. Brick. Reinforced concrete. Think it doesn’t sound very appealing? Zlín will prove you wrong. Baťa’s architecture is a rarity in the whole world. It adorns the city with its distinctive functionalist style from left to right and from top to bottom. The image of the city was defined by Vladimír Karfík and František Lydie Gahura. Together they created a perfectly thought-out functionalism, admired even by the legendary Le Corbusier. Zlín has maintained its one-of-a-kind character to this day and still receives recognition from all around the world, and not only from architects.
Baťa Factory Complex
Zlín’s industrial landmark. Dozens of factory buildings. The place where it all began. Those are just a couple of ways one could use to describe this enormous complex of former factories originally constructed by our constantly name-dropped Father Baťa. As time went on, the complex fell into disuse and was turned into a brownfield. Nowadays, with revitalization efforts underway, it is slowly being brought back to life. Our tip is to close the map for a moment and explore this part of town. You’ll get a lot more than thick smoke to soak in. Among the things you can find here are a gallery, a museum and a stylish café!
Zlín from a bird’s eye view
The most comprehensive view of Zlín is from the top of the Zlín Skyscraper 21. On the ground floor, visit Baťa’s mobile office located inside an elevator, which at the time already had air conditioning, running water and most importantly a way for the director to check on the various floors of production. A still working paternoster lift will take you to the 15th floor, just a few steps away to the café on the 16th floor. If you want to see preserved original style of the building, hop off at 8th floor and experience ArtDeco wooden environment. CafeR21 offers a breathtaking view of the entire city.
Don’t look for a city center in the traditional sense, nor a central promenade, as the city construction was primarily subjected to the needs of production. However, the urbanism of the city still has much to offer.
The university campus, which you also see from a bird’s eye view, is dominated by the modern buildings of the University Centre (Rectorate) and the Congress Center (trilobite-shaped roof) built in 2010 based on designs of the famous Czech architect Eva Jiřičná. Inside the University Centre building, the university canteen is open to public with free wifi and toilets.
For starters: the unique neighbourhood of Baťa’s houses set in never-ending greenery. These little cubes are scattered all over Zlín. Interesting fact – these houses were originally a temporary solution and weren’t meant to last more than 30 years. Thanks to their simple and precise construction, they serve their original purpose up to this day as well as ever. A bit harder to find are the functionalist villas, but with a bit of patience and a nice walk you are bound to discover these precious rarities.
Náměstí Práce, a place to go after work
Looking from the skyscraper, you can’t miss náměstí Práce, which despite being named Labor Square, was the mecca of entertainment and leisure time. An important part of it was the now closed Velké kino, a cinema that in its time boasted the largest cinema hall and the largest screen in central Europe and a capacity of 1000 people. Don’t forget Hotel Moskva, the first hotel in Europe to feature bathrooms inside the rooms, and PRIOR, a former shopping mall currently undergoing extensive renovation.
Building No. 21
A live 360 degree street view, only slightly spoiled by the safety net aimed at those who sought a theatrical exit off the stage of life. 21 is simply the symbol of Zlín. Once the tallest in all of central Europe, this building boasts a mobile office inside an elevator (air conditioning and a sink included!) and the longest paternoster lift in the country. Take it up to the directorial 8th floor preserved in its original Baťa-esque form. Continue on up, enjoy the view, check out a bronze model of the city and then take a selfie, obviously! Tip: Book a guided elevator tour in advance. A group of 10 spends 350 CZK. A real bargain!
Mon–Sun 10:00–21:00 (opening hours of Café R21 and the lookout deck)