Export success: The Bata shoe factory as pattern for urban planning
Zlín in Moravia, Czech Republic, should actually be called Baťa, following the founder of the dominant shoe factory in the town centre. It was here that, at the turn of the 20th century, Tomáš Baťa (1876-1932) laid the foundations of one of the world's largest shoe manufacturers, with production plants ranging from India to the USA. One of these branches is the now closed Baťa Factory and Estate in East Tilbury, a short distance from London. Others were built in Slovakia, Switzerland, France and in the Netherlands.
Common to the Baťa sites is their systematic, highly streamlined structure. Tomáš Baťa was an ardent advocate of Henry Ford's mass-production system and as shown in the Museum of Shoemaking in Zlín, he rigorously pushed ahead with rationalisation in his factories. This also included the architecture with its standardized frame construction of reinforced concrete in the architectural style of New Objectivity, thus reflecting the functionalist zeitgeist. Furthermore, the Zlín Baťa company not just covered work but all aspects of life: Factory housing estates, schools, a cinema and a hospital created the basis for employee loyalty and productivity.
The East Tilbury factory site also features a garden city, a cinema and a public swimming pool, the latter now demolished. The factory itself was designed by Vladimir Karfík, who was the architect in charge of the company headquarters in Zlín.