Administrative building of Vítkovice Steel and Iron Works

D103

The new administrative building for the Vítkovice Steel and Iron Works was built on a long-vacant space on the southern edge of the ring road, directly opposite the main railway station, which was the result of the bombing of Brno during the war. A design for the Brno headquarters of the Ostrava-based steel works had already been drawn up in the early 1920s by the architect Ernst Wiesner, who at that time envisaged a city palace in classicist style with lots of historicist details. This project was eventually bought and then built by the Moravian Regional Life Insurance Company. The steel company’s office facilities in Brno were not built until several decades later. The design, from 1982, was done by a trio of architects: Jaromír Kurfürst, Jiří Suchomel and Alena Šrámková. However, the building was not completed until the early 1990s, after the fall of communism, when it was privatized and used as a retail space and casino.

 

Jiří Suchomel, who was working for the Liberec studio Stavoprojekt SIAL, and the Prague architect Professor Alena Šrámková were, at that time, among the most progressive exponents of Czechoslovak architecture, which is evident from the design of the administration building for Vítkovice Steel and Iron Works, especially in its solution for the southern facade. The nine-storey steel structure was distinguished by its double-glazed facade, angled in middle of the window line, creating a corner in the shape of a wide-open letter V. The square windows with traditional cross-shaped muntins created a regular geometrical grid on the facade that was combined with vertical and horizontal perforated strips. The five upper office floors thus seemed extraordinarily light and transparent and had excellent interior illumination. In addition to providing offices for the staff of the steel company and another firm, Chepos, it was necessary for the building to allow smooth passage from the city centre on Josefská street to Nádražní street, which was a floor lower and came out onto a main transport hub by the railway station. The architects therefore designed the lowest two floors as a partly subterranean covered passageway through a shopping arcade connected by escalators to an underground subway. At the same time, they used contrasting reinforced concrete elements on the facade, namely, a strip encircling the frontage and large cylindrical supports in the open area of the lower floors.

 

This outstanding example of 1980s architecture displaying features of the high-tech trends of that time was, unfortunately, severely damaged in a tragic fire in 2002. In the following decade, only the exposed steel torso of the building remained, although it continued to serve as a thoroughfare in that busy part of the city. After many complicated years of negotiations and disputes over the politics and ownership of the site, the plot was appropriated for a new commercial building called Letmo, based on a design by Tomáš Dvořák, Martin Klimecký and David Fišer. The building finally opened in 2013 but, unfortunately, does not live up to the standards of the former building. The tragic fire and the lives two firemen who died fighting it are commemorated in the foyer of the building by a monument by the sculptor Adam Krhánek.

 

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Name
Administrative building of Vítkovice Steel and Iron Works

Date
1986 – 1990

Architects
Alena Šrámková, Jaromír Kurfürst, Jiří Suchomel

Trail
Centre Trail 1946–1989

Code
D103

Type
Administrative building, multi-purpose building

Address
Josefská 700/17, Nádražní 681/2 , (Město Brno), Brno, Střed

Public transport
Hlavní nádraží (TRAM 1,2,4,8,9,10; BUS 60,61)

GPS
49°11'30.2"N 16°36'43.2"E; 49°