Utopia of Modernity: Zlín

International symposium and exhibition funded through Zipp – German-Czech Cultural Projects

The city of Zlín is one of the most important architectural monuments of Czech modernity. The shoe manufacturer Tomas Bat'a built the city in the early 1920s with a clearly defined idea in mind, i.e., Zlìn was to be a functional city based on a diverse economic and service-related structure. He envisioned the city becoming one of the world's leading centres of shoe production within a few years. The project "Utopia of Modernity: Zlín" comprised a symposium in Zlín and an exhibition in Munich.

The symposium

In addition to formally examining its architecture and urban planning, the symposium "Utopia of Modernity: Zlín" addressed the import of Tomas Bat'a's social utopia. In building an ideally structured living environment, he attempted to create nothing less than a "new industrial man". Renowned architectural scholars, cultural scientists, sociologists and urban planners from around the world shed light on this unique project of modernity in lectures, discussions and thematic city walking tours - from a historic perspective with a view to the present.

The exhibition

The exhibition "Zlín - Model City of Modernity" was a joint project, coordinated by the Architekturmuseum der TU München, the National Gallery in Prague and the Regional Gallery of Fine Arts in Zlín. The exhibition examined the city that was designed strictly on the basis of functionalistic principles, and was studied and admired as a model among modern architects and politicians alike. The exhibition presented models, plans, photos and films which highlight the architectural development and socio-historical background of Zlín. It included designs made by Le Corbusier for Bat’a which many experts are unfamiliar with – plans for the expansion of Zlín, designs for his shoe stores in France, the French Bat’a satellite city Hellocourt and the Bat’a pavilion for the Paris World Exposition in 1937 – presented together with original drawings and a model. For more information, visit www.architekturmuseum.de.

The opening of the exhibition coincided with the release of an extensive anthology titled "A Utopia of Modernity: Zlín" which documents the results of the symposium. Using photos and film stills, the anthology illustrates the problematic relationship between economic and social panaceas and precisely designed architecture that leaves nothing to chance.

The anthology’s contributors include Daniel M. Abramson, Ivan Bergmann, Regina Bittner, Zdeněk Chládek, Lucie Galčanová, Adam Gebrian, Petr Hlaváček, Ladislava Horňáková, Svatopluk Jabůrek, Joan James, Igor Kovačević, Rostislav Koryčánek, Dagmar Nová, Jiří Novotný, Ladislav Pastrnek, Zdeněk Pokluda, Nina Pope, Jitka Ressová, Jaroslav Rudiš, Andrea Scholtz, Vladimír Ślapeta, Annett Steinführer, Miroslava Štýbrová, Rostislav Švácha, Petr Szczepanik, Mariusz Szczygiel, Barbora Vacková, Petr Všetečka and Karin Wilhelm.

Venues and schedule:
Symposium in Zlín and Prague, 19 - 23 May 2009
Exhibition "Zlín - Model City of Modernity", Architekturmuseum der TU München, 19 Nov. 2009 - 21 Feb. 2010