Architect Zdeněk Řihák was born on 10 August 1924 in Napajedla, into the family of a local teacher and primary school headmaster. He started to study in nearby Zlín under sculptor Vincenc Makovský, at the Art College which provided an unusually stimulating environment for a number of Czechoslovak artists during the Second World War. Řihák’s background in sculpture was naturally also reflected in his architecture, in the form of artistically approached designs with volumes of the buildings composed almost sculpture-like, as well as in his regular active collaboration with other artists. Řihák expanded his education at the Brno Faculty of Architecture and Civil Engineering of the VUT, and subsequently with practical work as an assistant of functionalist architects Jaromír Krejcar and Bedřich Rozehnal.
In the post-war era Zdeněk Řihák headed the design office of the Potravinoprojekt company (from 1950) and later also the State Design Institute of Commerce. This gave rise to several types of architectural work - commercial, recreational and hotel buildings which also involved restaurants and cafés, and had to comply with standards of international tourism. One of Řihák’s most important designs was executed in 1961–1964, the high-rise Continental Hotel (with Vladimír Kovařík and Alois Semela) on a Y-shaped plan, an unconventional building influenced by the Czechoslovak pavilion at Expo 58 in Brussels, which also contained works by artists Stanislav Libenský and Jarmila Brychtová.
A special hotel category that Řihák intensely explored in the course of the 1960s and 1970s concerned constructions in national parks. The architect designed two hotels in Štrbské pleso, in the High Tatras. The Patria Hotel (1965–1970) with a triangular shape inspired by the nearby Patria mountain with its moderate scale, natural materials and location directly by a lake enjoyed an unusually attractive position. The architect endowed the Panorama Hotel (1967–1969) with a highly impressive, structured and graded frontage widening towards the top which, like the monumental segmented volume of the Labská bouda hotel (1975) in the Krkonoše mountains, the Panorama Hotel met with mixed responses from the public. Nonetheless, it presents a prime example of the architect’s dynamic approach to the forms of his buildings.
After the Velvet Revolution Zdeněk Řihák adapted to the changed conditions of architectural practice, and in his studio predominantly produced designs for residential buildings. He died on 15 August 2006 in Brno, and is buried in the local Central Cemetery.
Date of birth