Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Mr Bata's Amazing Lifts



My husband writes and gives talks about the history of buildings. His English Buildings Blog has just won the AMARA award for best architecture blog for the second year in a row. But despite the English focus of the blog Phil's interest is international and I love organizing trips to the many architectural gems of the Czech Republic for him. One such gem is Zlin.

Zlin is an amazing city for anyone interested in the history of modern architecture. It is hard to credit, when you see the city's functionalist buildings, that it was mostly built in the first four decades of the 20th century, it looks so modern. Zlin is/was very much the corporate town of the Bata Shoe Factory. Tomas Bata and his successor Jan Bata, the company's owners, commissioned not only factory buildings, but office blocks, workers' housing, schools, hospital and other community buildings.


At the heart of the city is the office building Number 12, the earliest skyscraper in Central Europe. You can take the paternoster lift to the cafe at the top and get a bird's-eye view of the city. A paternoster lift does not stop at each floor for passengers, instead alarmingly you have to step in as it moves past. There used to be a lot of these lifts in Central Europe, but now for health and safety reasons only a few remain.



There is another old lift in the building - on the corner of the skyscraper, but you are not allowed in. This was Jan Bata's personal lift and it was also his office, allowing him to go to whichever floor he wished and supervise his employees there. The office can be viewed now as part of the ground floor exhibition area. Technically it is remarkable. It is not simply a large lift with a desk and chair in it, but a fully functioning office with telephone, basin with hot and cold running water, air-conditioning, alarm system, automatic fire detector and door lock control.


2 comments:

Philip Wilkinson said...

I think maybe they speeded the video up a bit – I reckon the pasternoster travels rather more slowly and it certainly isn't that scary! But it's a wonderful post anyway, and thank you for the link!

Seeing the paternoster reminds me again of the wonderful scene in David Lodge's Changing Places in which a character travels in a paternoster while standing on his head, with predictably comic results.

Joe Treasure said...

This is all rather wonderful, Zoe - the alarming paternoster lift and the movable office - and it would not be entirely surprising to learn that you'd made it all up - though I'm sure you haven't. I see that Bata shoes are still in business.

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