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Zlín City Theatre

Miroslav Řepa, Karel Řepa, František Rozhon

alias Workers´ Theatre (od 1946 – do 1990)
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)30. 's 20. century | Plans for new theatre building
František Lydie Gahur worked out several studies in course of 1930´s. By that time the theater companies performed mainly in the building , called Velké kino. The construction of new building with capacity of 1200 to 2000 persons was under consideration. The preparation of the construction was terminated because of unfavourable political events and WW2.
(detail)1946 | Foundation of permanent theatre
The professional theatre was founded, named Workers´ theater, which was active in the spaces of the adapted Komorní Cinema (now the Small Theatre), built in the year 1936 according to a design by the architect Vladimír Karfík. The ceremonial opening of the new theater took place 17.9.1946.
(detail)1957 | Architectural contest
Municipal authority put the project of new theater building out to tender. The evaluation of the received designs was concluded in the spring of 1958. The highest appreciation won the design by Karel and Miroslav Řepa , which was later rearranged by František Rozhon. The design by Štefan Lukačovič a Miroslav Tengler was also awarded.
(detail)1967 | Ceremonial opening
The construction commenced in 1960 according the design by M. and K. Řepa and F. Rozhon. It was finished in the autumn of 1967. Ceremonial opening took place 11.11 1967 with performance Jánošík by Jiří Mahen.
(detail)1989 | Rekonstruction
The building was under substantial reconstruction in 1989 as the main hall was adapted, primarily the auditorium and the adjoining spaces. Another stage was established in the main building with the capacity of 84 seats. In 1990´s further adaptations and reconstructions were taking place.
(detail)2000 | Cultural monument proclamation
The building was proclaimed to be a cultural monument by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic




     The designs for the construction of a theatre building in Zlín were prepared as part of the framework of the building of náměstí Práce (Labour Square) directly by the architect František Lydie Gahura (1891-1958), an employee of both Tomáš Baťa and his successor Jan A. Baťa. The original idea in several studies from the year 1931 incorporated the theatre into a social-cultural complex with a community centre, theatre hall, cinema and shopping centre as part of one large connected structure. This was followed by further studies wherein Gahura worked on a separate theatre building on Labour Square as can be seen from the designs from the years 1938, 1939 and 1940. He also considered making use of already standing structures. For example, in the year 1939 Gahura created a project for the reconstruction of the Large Cinema from the year 1933 on the above-mentioned square for the needs of theatre operations. After its completion the Large Cinema had also actually been used as an occasional theatre for various guest troupes.

    The plans for the construction of the theatre began to take actual shape in the year 1937 when Jan A. Baťa also began to develop an interest. The events of the year 1938 and the outbreak of World War II relegated this project to the drawing board indefinitely. Thoughts regarding the theatre arose once more after the liberation of the city in the year 1945. A permanent theatre was established in Zlín on the 14th of August 1946 with the name Divadlo pracujících (Workers´ Theatre). It was part of the Baťa national company as a cultural facility and as of the 1st of January 1949 was renamed as n. p. Svit. As of that same date the town of Zlín had its name changed to Gottwaldov on the basis of an initiative of the Communist management of the company as well as a directive. The return to the original name of the city came about on the 1st of January 1990.

    The Workers´ Theatre established a permanent theatre in the spaces of the adapted Komorní Cinema (now the Small Theatre), built in the year 1936 according to a design by the architect Vladimír Karfík (1901-1996). The theatre was ceremonially opened on the 17th of September 1946 with a performance of the play Games with the Devil by Jan Drda. The structure was modest. It originally consisted of a structure in which Karfík realised the ideal of a secondary business and social centre in the part of Zlín known as Díly. The structure has the typical Baťa style with a reinforced concrete skeleton with brickwork with a module of 6.15 times 6.15 metres, a rectangular layout, a flat roof and spacious windows. It included both shopping areas and a café. It consists of a two-storey structure from the street side and a three-storey in the rear part, having been built into a slope. From a small hall it moved along a staircase to a gallery and an auditorium of a length of 19 metres, a width of 11 metres and a height of 4.5 metres with a sloped floor and 421 seats. The portal was only 7 metres wide and 4 metres high, the small stage had a width of 11 metres, a depth of 9 metres and a height of 4.5 metres. The stage was not equipped with winches a turntable or a trap door. The facilities consisted of only five dressing rooms, a room for the wigmaker and the property man.

      Due to the strongly unsuitable provisional location of the theatre, the Regional National Committee in Gottwald in the year 1957 consequently organised an anonymous architectural competition for a theatre of an opera conception for 800 to 900 people. The evaluation of the submitted designs took place in the spring of 1958. 49 designs were submitted or according to certain period sources even 57 designs in all, with the highest award obtained by the duo of Karel Řepa with his son Miroslav and the team of Štefan Lukačovič with Miroslav Tengler.

     The authors of the victorious competition design decided to compose the theatre building as an extensive, horizontally conceived cuboid body with an accent on the tower prism volume of the fly loft. They linked up the diagonally situated former fire house to the structure which was to become the rear facilities for the entire linked up theatre complex after the construction work and its connecting to the main building.  The actual main building was conceived as a rectangular body with its centre containing an egg-shaped auditorium with a ring of loges along the circumference of the hall. The auditorium was supplemented by a vestibule on the ground floor and a spacious foyer on the first floor. The internal arrangement of the relation between the auditorium and the stage is designed as a reformed 'opera glass' space with a spacious proscenium making possible closer connection between the actors and the audience. At the same time it enabled the possibility of further experimentation with the space, for example playing on a covered orchestra pit in front of the ceremonial circular curtain or after its opening, the employment of the entire area of the proscenium and the stage which could be deepened with the rear stage creating an overall depth of 32 metres.

      The space for the theatre was chosen in the actual centre of the city, not far from the main square. Low single-storey houses were originally located at the site of the connection of the main building, with the parish church on the kitty corner and a square with Functionalist town homes on the opposite side. The homes had to be demolished and consequently the construction of the theatre could begin in the year 1960.   

At that time Czechoslovakia underwent reform to the state administration, whereby the Gottwald region was disbanded and its territory became part of the South Moravian region with its centre in Brno. At that time a new State Theatre was being built in Brno which meant that the region had to immediately carry out two demanding theatre buildings at the same time. Consequently the construction of the building was brought to a halt by a decision in Prague in March 1962, with, however, the decision only reaching Zlín in May of that year when the structure had been completed up to the height of the second floor. Consequently, it was decided to continue with the building work. The construction was completed in the autumn of the year 1967 with the ceremonial opening taking place on the 11th of November of that year with a premiere or the play Jánošík by Jiří Mahen. Since this opening of the theatre in the year 1967, a second stage, the Small Theatre in the Club, has come into existence on the first floor of the auxiliary building with a capacity for approximately 80 people.

     The building represented an important step in the urban planning of the centre of the city. Its look at the time reflected conflicts in the growth of the city, whereby the originally small agricultural town grew into an industrial centre. Parts of the town were transformed while parts of the original small town appearance were maintained. The theatre provided the locale with a big city feel without, however, being too extravagant. The authors succeeded in blending in with the most prominent structures in the surroundings, in particular the nearby parish church, as well as the structures opposite the theatre. They were not, however, able to predict the growth of automobile transport, degrading at present the square in front of the theatre into a busy and unpleasant, at least for the public, intersection. The theatre demonstrates contemporary as well as development tendencies in Czech, respectively Czechoslovak architecture of the second half of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s. The authors employed contemporary construction and materials, a reinforced concrete skeleton with columns of an almost Baťa span of 6 x 6 metres, supplemented by the steel constructions of the roofs. The main façade was conceived on the first floor as a spacious rectangular screen (aquarium) connecting up the exterior space with the extensive interior of the foyer on the first floor.

     An emphasis on transparently employed glazed walls appeared in the second half of the 1950s in connection with the introduction of suspended façades into Czech architecture. This can be understood as a synthetic connecting of the architectural work with the visual arts, this time art freed from ideological dictates, art of the Brussels Style, making use of significantly stylised realistic, figural motifs. These tendencies gradually moved toward a loosening of the relationship between art and the directives of content or formal comprehensibility. The final and, from the perspective of the theatre, most important moment was the attempt at employment of the reformed 'opera glass' space in the space arrangement of the theatre, based upon an auditorium opened up in the form of an amphitheatre, connected with the stage, penetrating in the form of a proscenium directly towards the audience. One of the designers Miroslav Řepa stated that a significant inspiration had been the theatre in Malmö from the years 1935-1944 by the architects Sigurd Lewerentz, David Hellden and Erik Lallerstedt. The authors were also inspired by the work of G. Asplund, as well as Italian Rationalism. Apart from the influence of Walter Gropius on the theatre conception, the rational architecture of Zlín itself also had an influence on the consequent appearance of the building, first and foremost the work of František Lydie Gahura, Vladimír Karfík and others.

     The building underwent significant reconstruction in the year 1989 when the main hall of the building was modified. The capacity was decreased from the original 800 to 687 places in the interest of increased comfort and  improved visibility. Another theatre and once again intimate stage, Studio G, was created in the main building from practice room number one. It consequently had its name changed to Studio Z in connection with the change to the name of the city with a capacity of 84 seats. Further adaptations and reconstruction of the building took place in the 1990s. 

     The City Theatre along with the works of art, adjoining park and fountains were registered on to the Central List of Cultural Monuments with the registration number 50702/7-8930 on the basis of a decision by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic on the 6th of December 2000.

     The projects for the new theatre building in the 1930s had the Baťa inspired name Divadlo pracujících. The newly founded permanent theatre in the year 1946 received the same name as it also fit in with the changed social and political conditions in Czechoslovak society after World War II and after the Communist putsch in February 1948. This name was finally changed in the year 1990 when it received the title Zlín City Theatre.


     The building with a rectangular ground plan, a flat roof and the dominant feature of the prismatic heightened fly loft is located on a corner plot of land. The western two-storey façade faces out on Osvoboditelů street with an arcade parterre and a rhythmic system of bevelled pillars. A terrace with stone paving is situated in front of the façade connected up with the surrounding terrain by a wide staircase divided up by low transverse parapets with stone oval vases, in all probability by the sculptor Alois Šuter. A metal sculptural work of the Flying Muse by Luboš Moravec is located at the northern end of the terrace placed upon a high, subtle beam. The front side facing the arcade is articulated by a system of small, rectangular vertical slots with a large display front, the main entrance to the theatre, in the middle. On the first floor a glazed wall takes up the entire width of the façade over the complete inner foyer. The wall is anchored by subtle metal beams and contains glazed doors leading to an elongated and narrow, almost invisible from the street, balcony with stone clad parapet railings.

     The side northern façade facing out on třída Tomáše Bati street has a nine-window scheme. The ground floor is articulated by smaller rectangular windows with an oblong entrance with a dynamic marquee in the central part.  A system of slightly jutting pillars is employed on the first floor serving to provide rhythm with a series of nineteen frames to the façade. The side southern façade facing out on Divadelní street is treated in a similar manner with, however, a rectangular entrance with a dynamic coving reinforced concrete marquee half way up. The main volume of the theatre, approximately at the middle of the length of the southern façade, is connected up with the diagonally situated operations building on Divadelní street by the organically shaped neck with an artistically treated structure of the wall. The rear, eastern façade with a sixteen-window scheme, opening into a small park, has a similar structure with the entrance to the operational areas under the marquee in the middle of the ground floor and with an identical front as the façades of the northern and southern sides on the first floor.

    The side façade in the south-west part makes up the wall of the courtyard. A connecting corridor on prismatic pillars leading to the first floor of the operations building juts out from the mass of the theatre on the southern side on the level of the second floor in close proximity to the south-east corner.  The façades of the main building are clad on the ground floor level with facing from grey-green limestone, while the upper floors are clad with light stone. The particular openings in the grid system are supplemented by the suspended parts of the façades from metal construction, with blue toned glazing in the parapets. The composition of the metal bars and glass panelling repeats a parallel geometric structure.

     The auxiliary building is connected with the theatre by an above-ground corridor for employees and a connecting corridor for transport of scenery. Its walls serve to unite from the exterior the volumes of both structures. It has a rectangular ground plan, three floors, a cellar and a bay in the central part serving to emphasise a segment of the roof. The building is not particularly interesting in terms of architecture. Its appearance is determined by rectangular windows (Eurowindows) in a simple grid repeated in the window schemes. The exterior look is also marked by the so-called ‘břízolit’ plaster of the building. The internal layout consists of three-tracts while the structure is made up of a reinforced concrete brickwork skeleton. The ground floor contains a joiner’s shop and assembly shop, while the first floor has the small Theatre in the club, directly opposite the end of the connecting corridor from the main building, with a capacity for approximately 80 to 100 places with a bar and restaurant.

      The theatre is accessible for visitors through the main entrance in the axes of the ground floor of the western façade. The entrance area is made up of glazed metal walls with the box office and an adjoining office along the sides, both of which are clad with corrugated aluminium sheet plating. This area is followed by the entrance into the vestibule with the ceiling held up by cylindrical columns. The curved wall of the auditorium with a stone mosaic by Milan Obrátil (1929) and Zbyněk Slavíček (1930) is opposite the entrance. The paving of the vestibule is carried out from grey marble plates.

    Two free-standing, double-flights of stairs leading in opposite fashion lead to the first floor from both sides of the vestibule. They additionally have lined flights in segment fashion culminating in the foyer on the first floor, a spacious hall with rooms of varying proportions. Of particular interest is the heightened space in the front part of the foyer with a view through the glazed wall of Osvobození street and the surrounding buildings. The most significant visual aspect consists of the stylised figural painting by Zdeněk Holub with dimensions of 30 x 2.5 metres depicting three historical epochs of the theatre through the means of both human as well as zoomorphic figures as well as additional symbols, symbolising the theatre as play, the theatre as poetry and the theatre in both the form of the comedy and tragedy of life. The foyer has lower ceilings in parts along the sides surrounding the curved wall of the auditorium. Snack and drinks bars are located along both sides with wooden cladding opening up towards the foyer with glazed walls and decorative Gobelin tapestries by Vladislav Vaculka (1914-1977) on the themes of Maryša and Jánošík. The wood clad entrance doors from the foyer into the hall are two-leafed and equipped with geometrically formed handles.  

The auditorium has an egg-shaped ground plan with the first 12 rows of the parterre with a slight elevation. The next 10 rows rise in the form of a steep amphitheatre. The hall is bordered by a single row of loges along the circumference, culminating with a pair of proscenium loges at the stage portal, facing out on the auditorium to a greater extent than the stage.

The hall is lined with light wood serving to not only emphasise the pleasant atmosphere of the space, but also enhancing the quality of the acoustics. The employment of a pyramid-shaped ceiling also contributes to this impression. The auditorium has a width of 20 metres, a depth of 22 metres and an elevation of 4 metres. The capacity after the adaptations in the year 1989 is 641 seats plus 46 places in the loges, consequently 687 in all.

The stage portal is 12 metres wide and 6.5 metres high. Apart from the iron fire curtain, a ceremonial textile curtain also hangs from the portal moving along an arched track. It was created according to a design by Hana Lendrová (1930) and Sylva Řepková (1928) and concretely carried out in the Gobelin tapestry workshop of the Central Artistic Crafts in Valašské Meziříčí. The curtain is made up of two separate pieces of woven woollen Gobelin tapestries of a height of 10 metres and of a width of 15.5 metres for each piece. The dominant colour is dark blue, supplemented by some dark red and violet, all of which being interlaced with gold and silver threads.

The stage has a width of 19 and a depth of 17.5 metres and is equipped with a turntable of a diameter of 13 metres with 14 trap doors. The main stage is supplemented on both sides by wing stages with moveable benches, making possible installation of needed parts for consequent decoration ahead of time. The stage can also be expanded in the backward direction with the space of the rear stage of an overall depth of 32 metres. The fly loft height is 25 metres, while the height of the winches is 22 metres. The overall number of winches is 35 with a capacity of 150 kg. The stage is equipped with backcloths in three colours, black, white and light blue. The stage can be entered either from the sides, the portal or from the auditorium.

The technical facilities are situated in the rooms above the loges and are accessible along an independent corridor. The lighting and projection booth are located here. The technical sound is provided by a regulation Yamaha Promix 01V digital mixer placed in loge number 8 in the longitudinal axis of the auditorium. The lighting is regulated through a Strand console with an overall number of 430 circuits. The reflectors are divided up so as to provide 126 for the stage, 38 for the portal and 40 for the auditorium. The stage is equipped with 20 outlets.

Additional facilities for the theatre are located in the basement including the boiler room. The ground floor contains offices while the rear tract houses the reception for the employee’s entrance. The main offices for the theatre management are situated on the first floor. The second and third floors contain additional operational rooms, while the side parts house the small stage with a capacity for an audience of 80 and the practice room.

A figural relief by the sculptor Zdeněk Kovář (1917-2004) on the theme of Drama, Poetry and Music is situated opposite the entrance in the reception area of the operational part of the theatre from the eastern side. The interior art work is supplemented by the ceramic work of Ludmila Hladíková (1925), Děvana Mírová ((1922), Marie Rychlíková (1923) and Alois Šutera (1933-1982). The sculptor Jan Habarta (1919-1989) also contributed to the décor. The stylised metal sculptural work of the Flying Muse by Luboš Moravec (1925) decorates the north-west corner of the theatre. Alois Šutera (1933-1982) created marble vases for the neighbouring wide main staircase. A glass mosaic containing a fountain with a female torso by Miloslav Chlupáč (1920) is situated in the area of the park between the rear façade of the theatre and the courtyard façade of the operations building. Behind the fountain stands a structured concrete wall by Čestmír Janošek (1935) making up a sort of paravan.

     The theatre was designed in a universal style with an emphasis on dramatic art and with a slight reform to the traditional 'opera glass' design. The authors employed, within limits, the possibilities given by the impulses from the available reform models of the first half of the 20th century with an emphasis on the relationship between the viewer and the actor. This impulse, unique within Czech theatre architecture at that time, is particularly evident in the egg-shaped formation of the auditorium and in the developed space of the proscenium. The composition of the main stage with a pair of side, symmetrically conceived spaces, additionally drew upon this between-the-wars experimentation. The structure ranks among those which in terms of the form of the design in the second half of the 1950s returned to the Czech environment of late Modernism, after the era of Socialist Realism, (the later International style), known as the Brussels style in the Czech Lands and applied both in architectural shaping as well as in artistic décor of buildings. The unified concept of the entire structure and integral inclusion of the visual arts amounts to one of the characteristic marks of the Brussels style when architects and visual artists were trying to create a cultivated space with an attempt at a new synthesis of architectural and artistic tools.  


Literature :

- Javorin, Alfred: Divadla a divadelní sály v českých krajích I. Divadla; Praha 1949, s. 55-56.

- Čančík, Jiří: K realizaci nového divadla v Gottwaldově; In: Architektura ČSR XXVII, 1968, s. 111-112.

- Plánka, Michal: K realizaci nového divadla v Gottwaldově; In: Architektura ČSR XXVII, 1968, s. 112.

- M. Ř. [Miroslav Řepa]: Divadlo pracujících v Gottwaldově; In: Architektura ČSR XXVII, 1968, s. 107-111.

- Balvínová, Eva: Beseda po startu. O prvních zkušenostech s novým divadelním prostorem hovořili ředitel Divadla pracujících Alois Lhotský, šéf činohry Karel Pokorný, dramaturg Otakar Roubínek, šéf výpravy Josef Vališ, režisér Svatopluk Skopal, herci Václav Beránek a Miroslav Moravec; Divadlo 19, 1968, č. 2, s. 10-17.

- Řepa, Miroslav: Nové divadlo pracujících v Gottwaldově; Divadlo 19, 1968, č. 2, s. 7-9.

- Novák, Pavel: Zlínská architektura 1900-1950; Zlín 1993, s. 99 a 104-105.

- Hilmera, Jiří: Česká divadelní architektura; Praha 1999, s. 149-150 a obr. 223-225.

- Pokluda, Zdeněk: Sedm století zlínských dějin; Zlín 2006, s. 125 a 127.

- Balajková, Veronika: Málem nepostavené divadlo; In: Městské divadlo Zlín 2006/2007. 40. výročí otevření nové divadelní budovy ve Zlíně; Zlín 2007, nestr.

- Horňáková, Ladislava: František Lydie Gahura 1891-1958. Projekty, realizace a sochařské dílo (katalog); Zlín 2007, s. 25-27.

- Pažoutová, Kateřína: Divadlo ve Zlíně. Rozhovor s architektem Miroslavem Řepou; In: Městské divadlo Zlín 2006/2007. 40. výročí otevření nové divadelní budovy ve Zlíně; Zlín 2007, nestr.


Tags: International style


Author: Strakoš Martin

Translator: David Livingstone

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