Bata’s town Zlín is celebrating its 700th birthday

Zlín

The town of Zlín is celebrating its 700th birthday and paying homage to the man who made it what it is today - the Czech footwear mogul Tomas Baťa.

The first written records of the Zlín settlement come from 1322, when it was bought by Queen Eliška Rejčka and donated to the Brno monastery. The city gained its present face in the era of the legendary Czech footwear mogul Tomas Baťa.

Baťa's skyscraper in Zlín | Photo: City of Zlín

The Baťa family played a crucial role in the town’s development. And it was all a matter of chance – if  the siblings Tomáš, Antonín and Anna Baťa had received permits for the production of footwear in Uherské Hradiště in the early 1890s, they would not have built their factory in nearby Zlín. In a short time, they created a prosperous company and gradually the town began to flourish.

The Baťa factory expanded and gradually the face of the town’s main square changed as well.  Multi-storey burgher commercial and residential buildings appeared on the site of the original houses.

Other streets in the town center changed in the same way. Tomáš Baťa invited many renowned architects (such as Le Corbusier) to Zlín, and so the town turned into an agglomeration full of functionalist architecture. Colonies of typical "Baťa" buildings grew - family houses, but also high-rise buildings.

Zlín  (1920-1945) | Photo: Josef Vaňhara,  Tomáš Baťa Foundation

Baťa's skyscraper

A sixteen-storey house in the center of Zlín rises to a height of 77.5 meters. Known as Bata’s skyscraper, it was the headquarters of the family business. At the time of its creation, it was the second tallest non-sacral building in Europe. The first Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk also visited it several times.

From 1923 until his death in a plane crash in 1932, Tomáš Baťa served as the mayor of Zlín and built a modern city "for 50,000 inhabitants".

Many buildings built at the time boasted the adjective "best": for example, the largest department store, the largest hotel, the largest cinema (for 2,500 seated spectators).

Among the city’s landmarks is the Tomas Bata Memorial by architect František Lydia Gahura, which was unveiled a year after the death of Tomas Bata (1933) and is considered a masterpiece of Zlín architecture.

Gottwaldov | Photo: City of Zlín

Change of name

After the communist takeover the regime renamed Zlín to Gottwaldov. Fortunately, many institutions founded in the Baťa era continued in their successful activities - for example, the Zlín film studios, which became famous for their animated works, thanks to the talent of Karel Zeman and Hermína Týrlová.

After the fall of the communist regime, the city quickly returned to its original name Zlín. New architectural gems were added to those from the Baťa era, for instance the Zlín Congress Center, home to the Bohuslav Martinů Zlín Philharmonic Orchestra.

The project was designed by the world-famous architect and Zlín native Eva Jiřičná together with her team from the AI ​​Design company. The local university is also named after Tomáš Baťa.

Zlín is commemorating three big anniversaries this year. In February 700 years since its first mention in historical records, in April 75 years since the first expedition of the town’s famous native traveler Miroslav Zikmund and in July 90 years since the tragic death of Tomas Bata, who made the town what it is today.

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