In the mid-1950s, Brno succeeded in reviving its pre-war tradition of trade fairs, which allowed ‘the Brussels style’ to make its mark on the city in various instances. In 1955, the first exhibition of Czechoslovak engineering industry took place in the partially reconstructed exhibition centre, which had been severely damaged during the Second World War (and was even considered for demolition). In connection with efforts to boost Czechoslovak exports, the first International Engineering Fair was held in 1959. Such a large event required a comprehensive revitalization of the exhibition grounds and more accommodation, which was in significantly short supply. To this purpose, it was decided that the existing pavilions would be restored and new ones would be built, which included a new administrative building for Brno Exhibition Centre. The architect Zdeněk Alexa was tasked with planning the deployment of new buildings within the exhibition grounds and several new pavilions were built: Pavilion Z (by Zdeněk Alexa and František Lederer), Pavilion C (by Zdeněk Alexa, Miloslav Matiovský and Ferdinand Lederer, where the architects developed the formal features of Pavilion Z), Pavilion X (by Antonín Ševčík and Radúz Russ), Pavilion B (by Zdeněk Alexa and Antonín Nutec), and the administrative building of Brno Exhibition Centre, which was built to a design by Miroslav Spurný and Antonín Ševčík from 1958–1959.
The high-rise administrative building, with its lower projecting one-storey block, connects to the older curved building (by Emil Králík, 1928) that forms the main entrance to the exhibition grounds. Together they delineate the wide crescent-shaped entrance space ornamented by the monumental sculpture Nový věk [The New Age] by Vincenc Makovský, which had previously stood in front of the Czechoslovak pavilion at Expo 58. The longer side of the twelve-storey block is perpendicular to the circular line of the entrance area. The main entrance is situated in the narrow part of the facade facing the centre of this circular space. The vertical block of the administrative building, which is crowned with an asymmetrically segmented viewing terrace, completes the urban design of the entrance area to the exhibition grounds and, at the same time, is the culmination of several visual axes, such as views from Křížkovského street, Mendlovo náměstí and from the exhibition centre itself.
Many elements that were popular at that time feature in the overall composition of the building, such as the V-shaped pillars, the subtle spiral staircase that dynamically penetrates the space of the entrance hall, which grows out of what originally was a water source. This building also fulfils the basic principles set out in the concept of the Czechoslovak pavilion at Expo 58 with regard to the interaction of architecture and fine arts. With its suspended facade, the building became a model for other administrative buildings for state-owned enterprises. The interiors were arrayed with rich decoration, expensive materials and a profusion of artworks. The floors of the spacious two-storey high entrance hall were made from three types of stone, the floor in the hall of the foreign centre situated in the curved wing of the building was made from four-coloured terrazzo, the main staircase was clad in marble panels in two colours, and the sanitary facilities had floors of fireclay tiles. In the interior, areas of the walls and the pillars that were interspersed vertically between the tall windows of the hall of the foreign centre were clad in river pebbles, which also featured on the facework of the exterior. The columns were clad in artificial marble and the main pillars were covered with polished aluminium sheet. The floors of other rooms and offices were covered with Zlinolit synthetic resin covering. In accordance with ‘the Brussels style’, the spaces of the administrative building were painted in vivid latex colours.
With regard to artworks, the walls of the ground floor of the foreign centre were adorned with free compositions of various textures designed by the artist Jiří Coufal. These were mosaics of chips of marble, coloured sgraffito, and compositions created with a combination of techniques. Unfortunately, they have not survived. There is still a large decorative wall (3 × 8 metres) by Oldřich Vašica on the first floor of the hall, which was created using the combined technique of mosaic with sgraffito, cast iron, and inserted strips of coloured metal. The original decoration of the walls of the cinema hall on the first and second floors featured the use of a new method in interior design − transferring an image from a negative directly onto plaster. Our field research from 2011 led to the discovery of a decorative composition on the back of a segmental screen on the ground floor of the entrance hall, situated below the cinema hall. It is a large composition consisting of triangular and trapezoidal shapes, most likely created by means of layering plaster. The low relief is polychrome in several shades of blue. An integral part of the interior was also the ‘Brussels’ furniture, designed by Miroslav Spurný and Antonín Ševčík, who were also responsible for the artistic concept of the building.
Although the building was admired by visitors to Brno Exhibition Centre (while it was being constructed the shell of the building was even considered the most interesting art exhibit of the international fairs of 1959), the eventual artistic design of the interior was not critically well-received, due to its excessive opulence and disparateness. In a review for Architektura ČSSR in 1961, Ivan Ruller praised the urban design integrating the building into the entrance area of the exhibition centre, its massing, configurational and operational solutions, and also the interior fittings and furniture. Nevertheless, he called into question the artistic concept: ‘The building deviates significantly from this country’s standard constructions, which is naturally a result of its unique purpose, but also because the overall concept is full of experiments. Many of these are problematical and have been the subject of many debates, doubts, criticisms and disagreements. It features a plethora of elements that are rarely used in this country, such as rich tile patterns, abstract decor on walls, rich colours, combinations of diverse textures, photographs on plaster, to name but few.’
Nevertheless, in spite of the period criticism, the administrative building of Brno Exhibition Centre can be considered an impressive example of ‘the Brussels style’. The building underwent a renovation in the years 1993–1994 (new windows, an extension for a fire lift, renovated interiors) that led to the decoration in the cinema hall and other spaces being removed.