Brno dam and reservoir


The oldest documented design for a dam on the natural rock gully dates back to 1872, but it was not until 1918 that construction on the floodplain was prohibited, and the preparatory work for the project did not begin until the mid-1920s. Its eventual location on the north-western edge of Brno was only one of a number of possible sites for a hydraulic structure on the river Svratka. The ​​Kamenný mlýn area in Pisárky was also considered, as was the area near what was known as Ruský vrch in Komín. In the end, the vicinity of the original village of Kníničky was chosen as the most appropriate in terms of the profile of the valley and the extent of the flooded area. Although the development was meant to be a purely utilitarian water management structure, from the very beginning there were calls for it to serve other purposes. The 1931 project had already envisaged a ‘general recreational outcome for the inhabitants of the industrial city’. The architectural design of the dam was created by Jaroslav Grunt in collaboration with the engineers S. Kratochvíl, A. Homola, K. Lossman and J. Mazel. Construction work began in 1936 and the main structure was completed in 1939. The last of the work and the flooding of the area took place in the course of the following year. The dam’s main investor was the Ministry of Public Works, with contributions from the Land of Moravia and Silesia and the City of Brno.
Plans to use it as a waterway  


The gradual implementation of the project stimulated ideas for other uses of the dam. One such idea was to use it as a waterway, not only in the context of Brno and its surroundings, but in the framework of the national transport and economic strategy. The architects Bohuslav Fuchs and Jindřich Kumpošt had long been working on transport issues and the subject of their deliberations was the concept of a ‘national transportation-communication nerve’. This would be designed in relation to all other modes of transportation, including waterways, which were essential in terms of international commercial competition. In the Regional Plan, Kumpošt proposed a radical extension to the Kníničky dam between 1938 and 1945. This entailed the complete reconstruction of the existing dam and raising its height by 10 metres. This would increase the total capacity of the reservoir to an estimated 100 million m3 of water. The raised level of the water would flood the villages of Chudčice and Veverská Bítýška and the reservoir would reach as far as Tišnov. The implementation of this proposal would also require an increase in the height of the weir at Kamenný mlýn and the flooding of the adjoining meadows in Žabovřesky and part of the built-up area nearby. This would facilitate the necessary navigable depth of 0.8 metres along the entire route of the river Svratka from Kamenný mlýn to the dam.


To increase the quality of irrigation in the areas south of Brno, Kumpošt considered the possibility of removing the existing dam and replacing it with a new one in Pisárky, 100 metres above the weir at Kamenný mlýn. The arc-shaped structure with a radius of 300 metres would stand 50 metres high.  This variant would give the reservoir a water capacity of 250 million cubic metres and flood 13 square kilometres of land, also reaching as far as Tišnov. In this scenario, the localities of Jundrov, Komín, Bystrc, Veverská Bítýška and part of Březina would be under water.


Although Kumpošt’s ambitious proposals for a new dam and reservoir came to nought, not least because of the enormous cost, their comprehensiveness meant they could form a basis for the regional plan of Brno’s industrial zone and the overall plan of the city of Brno. His vision was also proof of the role that infrastructure for water and water transport played in territorial planning. Nevertheless, in the Regional Plan for the Kníničky Dam, Jindřich Kumpošt also came up with many other detailed designs, such as changing the shores of the reservoir, marina designs, and plans to improve individual recreational and sporting centres.


City recreational zone after 1945
 With the new social and political situation after 1948, the role of the dam and reservoir for the population of Brno and the surrounding localities began to change. Shortly after the end of the war, it began to be seen as a popular place for recreation and tourism, the allure of which was significantly enhanced by the establishment of leisure boat cruises. The boats originally departed from the quay in Bystrc and sailed to Veveří Castle and back, with other stops in between. After 1949, this route was extended to Veverská Bítýška. The appeal of boating on the reservoir was also boosted by ‘the people’s fare’, which did not reflect the real operating costs of the service. A restaurant and a boat hire facility were set up in the area of the quay, as was a wooden boat shed with facilities for boat maintenance. 


At the time, the tram line went only as far as the terminal in Komín. From there, it was possible to take a bus to the dam or walk to it along the river. The extension of the electrified line to Starý Bystrc was carried out within the framework of the ‘two-year plans’ of 1948 and this significantly improved access for the city’s residents. In the period press, the reservoir is often referred to as ‘our sea’, and it did indeed become the most popular recreational area for the people of Brno. The largely spontaneous growth in private cottages, cabins and recreation chalets was in breach of the prohibited building conservation zone along the length of the lake and led to other hygienic transgressions, mainly due to the absence of sewers. As a result, the water quality in the reservoir degraded the biological properties of the river Svratka, which was a source of drinking water in addition to supplies from the Březovský water pipeline.


It therefore proved necessary to lay grass along the conservation zone and the shores were transformed into sandy beaches to prevent further pollution. Citizen’s labour brigades played an important role in the landscaping and minor construction work on both banks of the lake throughout the five-year period. During initiatives such as ‘Citizens are building their city’ and ‘5M’, sunbathing areas were created, the banks were grassed and the existing paths and roadways were improved. The busiest areas were provided with public lighting, drinking water, public toilets, and basic hygiene facilities.


During the 1950s, there was increasing interest in building recreational facilities on both sides of the reservoir. The areas in demand were around Rakovec, Kozí horka, Jelenice, Obora and the Sokol swimming pool, which, like Osada, were developed during the war years.


Overall Development Plan of the City of Brno from 1956
 In the Overall Development Plan of the City of Brno from 1956, there was separate territorial documentation for the area of the dam, which was prepared by the architects František Kočí and Zdeněk Kubíček. In addition to the fundamental aspects of water management, the architects focused on improving the natural conditions for building the city recreational zone. This was meant to become part of an ambitious cultural and educational project called the Park of Culture and Recreation, which was to cover an extensive area that stretched from Pisárky along the Svratka valley to the dam and reservoir, and included the area of ​​Brno Zoological Garden, the construction of which began in 1952 on the hill Mniší hora in Bystrc.


The area around the reservoir at that time was made up of remnants of agricultural land, allotments and meadows. The area was scattered with the buildings of 721 clubs and the cabins and chalets of individuals and enterprises. The aim of the overall plan was to design a recreational resort in individual phases as an ‘architecturally balanced whole’. Both sides of the lake were intended for recreation. The left bank was earmarked for private cottages and cabins, and masses of day-trippers. On peak days, a typical Sunday during the summer, there were expected to be 100,000 visitors. The right side was primarily intended for boatyards and the recreation facilities of state enterprises. New access roads and parking areas were designed for cars and buses. For pedestrians, the architects designed a sightseeing and hiking trail around the whole lake, which joined up with other trails through the forest parks. The plan also included 167 hectares of new forested areas.


The overall development plan envisaged five large recreation centres with adjoining grassy spaces on 105 hectares, with a capacity for 188,000 people. They were to be equipped with changing rooms, sanitary facilities, first aid stations, restaurants, rooms for preparing food, cultural facilities, telephone booths, a post office, a playground for ball games, a boat hire facility and sheltered play areas for young children. In the accommodation areas, 920 chalets and cabins were planned for around 5,500 holidaymakers and there was also a reserve for another 135 chalets for around 810 people. All of this was designed with access for motor vehicles and small car parks. Each of these areas was to have its own area for ball games. The football pitches, athletics tracks, tennis courts, the five young children’s play areas were located so they would be accessible from several of the accommodation areas. There was also a central play area for children covering 3 hectares with constant supervision and a paddling pool. There was to be a permanent camp site with 50 tents located in Obora with a central building and kitchen. The plan also included four hotels with a total of 700 beds with their own beaches and a central dock for 100 boats. Veveří Castle would partly be used as a hotel for visitors from abroad.


During the 1960s and 1970s, the plan for the recreation resort around Brno dam and reservoir was gradually implemented in phases in accordance with the plan, and this period can be considered its heyday in terms of visitors and the development of the area. It was during this period that most of the accommodation facilities for state-controlled enterprises and other chalets and cabins were built, and the range of services on offer also increased. However, in the decades that followed, the growth in car ownership − making it easier to travel to more distant resorts, the deteriorating water conditions, and the still inadequate infrastructure led to a decline in interest in mass recreation around the Brno reservoir.


The present
 The new political and economic system after 1989 fundamentally changed the attitudes of the population in relation to public and private ownership of land near the reservoir, and this is now the determining factor in the potential for developing this urban recreation zone. In the intervening period, changes in the use of individual buildings and the growing desire to have  house in the suburbs has created a ‘trend of permanent residence’ in the vicinity of the dam and reservoir. This has been accomplished by means of reconstructing chalets, cottages, and allotment cabins and by building new structures on land that was originally intended for recreation. At the same time, however, in recent years the recreational function of the area has been revived. Since 2011, after ten years of a cleaning operation to rid the lake and its tributaries of blue-green algae, it has again become possible to bathe in Brno reservoir all summer long.


Brno dam and reservoir

1931 – 1970

Jaroslav Grunt, František Kočí, Zdeněk Kubíček


Industrial, technical or transport structure

, (Bystrc), Brno, Bystrc

49°13'56.2"N 16°31'08.7"E