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This article is on the city. See also Zlin aircraft brand.

Zlín ( ), from 1949 to 1989 Gottwaldov ( ), is a city in the Zlín Region, southeastern Moravia, Czech Republicmarker, on the Dřevnice River. The development of the modern city is closely connected to the Bata Shoes company. Due to Bata's managerial excellence Zlín became famous for the company's extraordinary social scheme developed after the First World War and its modernist urbanism.

History of Zlín

The first written record of Zlín dates back to 1322. Zlín became a town in 1397.

Zlín and Tomáš Baťa (1894-1932)

The Baťa’s Skyscraper from 1938

The town grew rapidly after Tomáš Baťa founded a shoe factory there in 1894 when the population was approximately 3,000 inhabitants. Baťa's factory supplied the Austro-Hungarian army in World War I as the region was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Due to the remarkable economic growth of the company and the increasing prosperity of its workers, Baťa himself was elected mayor of Zlín in 1923. Baťa designed the town as he saw fit until his death in 1932, at which time the population of Zlín was approximately 35,000. Tomáš Baťa in his ultimate wisdom, had decided to sell his business to his brother Jan Antonin on May 10 1931 (when the company Bata a.s., Zlin was founded). Tomas Bata confirmed the sale in his will to make doubly sure that his brother Jan Antonin would become the owner of the Bata businesses. Many of the dreams Tomas and Jan had, Jan ended up building, by more than doubling the size of the business in Czechoslovakia (in fact nearly tripling the business to nearly 50,000 people in Czechoslovakia alone). Jan also built up Batov (1933), the Bata Canalmarker (1934), Batovany (1938), SVITmarker (1939) and all of the other international Bata towns such as Batanagarmarker (1934-37). Although Jan learned from Tomas' ideas, they were merely ideas which required large investments, action plans, and inspirational management techniques. But somehow, Jan Antonin was able to build dozens of city towns around the world in a span of time less than ten years which is truly a miracle.

When the business transaction was finalized through a court probate proceeding in 1932 as prescribed by Czechoslovakian law, Jan Antonin became the legitimate owner of the Bata family business. In fact, in the newspaper the day after the death of Tomas Bata, Clement Gottwald, a communist wrote a full page article predicting the bankruptcy of Bata. Further, in the month before his death, Tomas Bata dismissed 5,000 people from the factory due to the worldwide economic depression. In the months after Tomas Bata's death, and in spite of the terrible economic conditions in Czechoslovakia, Jan Bata rose to the occasion and rehired all of the workers who had been let go. Jan Antonin refused to let the worldwide economic conditions deter his plans to expand the business. And from 1932 onward, the Bata business grew like few other had ever done before or afterwards. Jan Antonin built for Czechoslovakia an economic giant, employing more than 100,000 people by 1939 from a level of 16,000 in 1932.

Jan Antonin was forced to flee from Czechoslovakia after the invasion by the Nazis, Tomas' son Thomas manager of the buying department of the English Bata Company was unable to return again until after the war when the Baťa company was nationalized. Thomas was sent to Canadamarker by his Uncle Jan where he was the Vice President of the Bata Import and Export Company of Canada, which later developed into another model community named Batawamarker that had been founded by Jan Antonin Bata in 1938.

Expansion of the Company and the City

During the Great Depression many predicted an early end to Baťa’s economic success. Yet the company expanded even more rapidly. Zlín became the strategic headquarters of a fast growing international company. The Batamen (as Baťa’s foreign workers were called) worked across the globe. The city became the centre for managing an international supply and manufuacturing chain, ranging from Malaysia where rubber was bought; through India where, in the city of Batanagarmarker, a shoe factory was constructed; to Argentina from where leather hides were imported. Among the most important shoe factories, or "Zlín satellites" as they were called, based outside of the Czech Republic were:

All of these new projects were being managed along with steady growth of the number of Baťa’s employees based in Zlín. When a Czechoslovak communist senator announced in a 1932 speech called "Moscow or Zlín?" that Baťa (as a prototypical capitalist symbol) would go bankrupt in few years, he could not have been further from truth.

Postwar Era

Zlín was merged in 1948 with several surrounding communities to form Gottwaldov, named after the first communist president of Czechoslovakiamarker, Klement Gottwald. In 1990 the whole city was renamed Zlín.

Architecture in Zlín

Urban Utopia

Letná district
The astonishing feature of the city’s architectural development was a characteristic synthesis of two modernist urban utopian visions: the first inspired by Ebenezer Howard’s Garden city movement and the second tracing its lineage to Le Corbusier’s vision of urban modernity. From the very beginning Baťa pursued the goal of constructing the Garden City proposed by Ebenezer Howard. However, the shape of the city had to be ‘modernized’ so as to suit the needs of the company and of the expanding community. Zlín’s distinctive architecture was guided by principles that were strictly observed during its whole inter-war development. Its central theme was the derivation of all architectural elements from the factory buildings. The central position of the industrial production in the life of all Zlín inhabitants was to be highlighted. Hence the same building materials (red bricks, glass, reinforced concrete) were used for the construction of all public (and most private) edifices. The common structural element of Zlín architecture is a square bay of 20x20 feet (6.15x6.15 m). Although modified by several variations, this high modernist style leads to a high degree of uniformity of all buildings. It highlights the central and unique idea of an industrial garden city at the same time. Architectural and urban functionalism was to serve the demands of a modern city. The simplicity of its buildings which also translated into its functional adaptability was to prescribe (and also react to) the needs of everyday life.

The urban plan of Zlín was the creation of František Lydie Gahura, a student at Le Corbusier’s atelier in Paris. Le Corbusier’s inspiration was evident in the basic principles of the city’s architecture. On his visit to Zlín in 1935, where he was appointed to preside over the selective procedure for new apartment houses. Le Corbusier also received a commission for creating the plan for further expansion of the city and the company. His plan represented a paradigm shift from his earlier conceptions of urban design. Here he abandoned an anthropomorphic, centralized city model in favor of the linear city format. The change in Le Corbusier’s thinking was also reflected by the abandonment of the à redents residential pattern in favor of free-standing slab blocks. His Zlín plan, however, was never fully adopted.

Architectural Highlights

  • The Villa of Tomáš Baťa was an early architectural achievement in Zlín (the construction was finished in 1911). The building’s design was carried out by the famous Czech architect Jan Kotěra, professor at Prague's Academy of Fine Arts. After its confiscation in 1945 the building served as a Pioneers’ house. Being returned to Tomáš J. Baťa, the son of the company’s founder, the building houses the headquarters of the Thomas Bata Foundation.
  • Baťa’s Hospital in Zlín was originally founded in 1927 and quickly developed into one of the most modern Czechoslovak hospitals. The original architectural set up was designed by František Lydie Gahura.
  • The Grand Cinema (Velké kino) was built in 1932 and became the largest cinema in Europe (2580 seated viewers) in its time. The cinema also boasted the largest movie screen in Europe (9 x 7 meters). This technological marvel was designed by the Czech architects Miroslav Lorenc (1896-1943) and František Lydie Gahura (1896-1958).
  • The Monument of Tomáš Baťa was built in 1933 by František Lydie Gahura. The original purpose of the building was to commemorate the achievements of Baťa before his unexpected death in a plane crash in 1932. The building itself is a constructivist masterpiece. It has served as the seat of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Bohuslava Martinů since 1955.

  • Baťa’s Skyscraper (Baťův mrakodrap, Jednadvacítka) was built by Jan Antonin Bata to serve as the central office for the worldwide Bata organization. Through Jan Bata's detailed plans of work, a small group of workers was able to build one floor per month, completing the building in a little more than a year. The skyscraper was finished in 1938 with one special feature: Jan had his office built inside of an elevator so that he could move from floor to floor to manage his businesses of more than 100,000 employees. This elevator office also has a working sink, a working telephone, and had built in air conditioning. This tallest Czechoslovak building (77.5 m) was designed by architect Vladimír Karfík. The building has recently undergone an expensive renovation and is currently the headquarters of the Zlín Regional Government.


International relations

Twin towns - Sister cities

Zlín is twinned with:


  • The Playwright Tom Stoppard was born Tomas Straussler in Zlín in 1937 where his father Eugene - Evžen - was a physician under the forward-looking Bata doctor, Bohuslav Albert. The Strausslers left for Singapore in 1939. The Strausslers were one of the Jewish families that Jan Bata rescued from the Nazi's at the outset of WWII.
  • Daniel Málek, a Czech breaststroke swimmer and three-time Olympian, was born in Zlín.
  • Ivana Trump - Donald Trump's ex wife - was born in Zlín
  • Vladimír Hučín famous Czech political personality was born in Zlin.
  • The Broadcaster Sir John Tusa was born in Zlín in 1936 where his father was a company executive. In 1939 the family went to England where his father became the Managing Director of Bata's East Tilbury factory,
  • Ice hockey players Roman Cechmanek, Karel Rachunek, Roman Hamrlik and Petr Cajanek.
  • The prominent female architect Eva Jiricna was born in Zlin. Her father worked as an architect for Bata.
  • Silvia Saint worked as a manager of a large hotel.



  • Frampton, Kenneth, 2001. Le Corbusier. London and New York: Thames and & Hudson World of Art.
  • Meller, Helen, 2001. European Cities 1890-1930s. History Culture and the Built Environment. Chichester (UK): John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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