Journey to a utopian city built over 100 years ago
#stories from the eastern west
The Czech shoe-maker Tomáš Bat'a was a visionary. A deep believer in capitalism, he dreamt up a unique functionalist city and started building it around his factories in the small town of Zlin. It became more succesful than he could have imagined. Bat’a moved on to redesigning how his workers engaged in relationships, spent free-time and were educated – the very way they lived. It seemed that before WWII, Zlin was a unique place, a sort of... living UTOPIA!
Our producer Wojciech travelled to Zlin to do a reality check. How was the city doing almost a century after the death of its ‘founder’? Does it still live the utopian dream? What happened to the shoe factories and functionalist twin houses?
This episode is a Stories From The Eastern West co-production with About Building and Cities, a highly-respected podcast about architecture. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram, and consider supporting them via their Patreon.
[01:07] Early days of the Bat'a Company
[02:43] The Bat'a ground rules
[06:50] Luke & George from AB+C break down Zlin's utopian architecture
[14:02] Almost a hundred years apart, can we still judge the Batian system?
[19:20] Is it possible to export a city?
[24:06] Thanks & credits
Standing on Solid Ground / a gallery of Zlin’s most interesting sites / on Monocle.com
Standing on Solid Ground / on Monocle.com
Designing for Living in Czech Republic / from the New York Times
Tourist map of Zlin / on use-it.travel
art and architecture
Stories from the Eastern West
Mariusz Szczygieł / for writing Gottland, the book that was stuck in our producer’s head for over a decade and inspired the whole journey. He is an highly-renowned journalist and writer.
Vit Jakubicek / for spending many hours with our producer and explaining the Batian system in great detail. Vit is a curator at the Zlin Regional Gallery and a lecturer at Tomas Bata University in Zlin.
Sonia Zhuravlyova / for sharing her Zlin contacts with us. Sonya wrote an absolutely great article about Zlin for Monocle titled Standing On Solid Ground. She’s a freelance journalist, sub-editor and copywriter based in London.
Pavel Velev / for inviting us to the Bata Foundation villa and kindly devoting to us a good portion of his last day at work before he went on vacation. Pavel is director of the Tomas Bata Foundation.
Dr Zdenek Pokluda / for beautifully telling us the story of Batian business adventures. He is the author of a trilogy about Batian Zlin and a scholar at Tomas Bata University in Zlin.
Milan Balaban / for interpreting our interview with Dr Pokluda. Milan is a scholar at Tomas Bata University as well as a very helpful and kind man.
Lucie Smardova / for warmly inviting us to a local event and later to her home in one of the Bata houses. Lucy is an art historian and activist, she organises events popularising knowledge about Zlin’s original architecture and history. Together with her husband, she runs the Bata Infopoint, a good place to start discovering Zlin’s residential area.
Wojciech Oleksiak: script, scoring, sound design, mixing
Adam Zulawski: host, editing
Nitzan Reisner: host, guidance and protection
Luke Jones (AB+C): co-host
George Gingell (AB+C): co-host