The Hotel Continental was built for a similar reason as the Hotel International, i.e., to increase the capacity to accommodate visitors to Brno trade fairs. However, the Hotel Continental was originally meant to be a tourist hostel. Nevertheless, during the construction of the building, the requirement for an increased level of comfort and a primary focus on foreign guests arose, which resulted in a certain mismatch: while the standard of accommodation was eventually raised to the required level (the hotel was classified as category B-star with the option to become category A), the operational and business parts of the hotel remained true to the original concept and were not adequate for the needs of the facility.
The relatively small plot chosen for the Hotel Continental is the former site of one of the oldest workers’ settlements in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. A memorial plaque at the entrance to the hotel commemorates some of its history. It reads: Here once stood the birthplace of Adolf Loos and the stonemason’s workshop of his parents. The small size of the plot determined the eventual form of the building, which had to be built upwards for reasons of capacity. This gave rise to a 56-metre high building of fifteen floors, which had a significant impact on the skyline of the city it is now an integral part of. The floor plan of the main building is in the shape of a letter Y, which was a popular design at the time, used in a range of variants. The structure of the high-rise block with the hotel rooms consists of cast concrete with prefabricated elements resting on cast-in-situ reinforced concrete frames at the level of the ground and first floors, which house the social amenities.
The entrance hall in the west wing, which occupies both of the lower floors, is dominated by a distinctive ‘Brussels-style’ spiral staircase and an atypical ceiling design in a geometric configuration of concentric triangles, among which are concealed the original lighting fixtures of the same shape, and which are the key motif of the hotel. On the ground floor, there is a hall, a bar and other common areas with plate glass walls. The originally single-storey extension for the restaurant, with folded plate roof, is connected to the south wing of the main high-rise block. The glazed facade of the ground floor facing Kounicova street opens onto an area of greenery, which was supposed to be a Japanese garden with water features in the original plan. In spite of their relatively intimate dimensions, the social areas are quite spectacularly rendered in natural materials. The floors in the entrance hall are from Venetian tile, which contrasts with the rubble masonry wall behind the spiral staircase. Other materials are marble, transparent and coloured glass, and pear wood. The spaces in the interior and the exterior, i.e., the walls of the loggias and the ceilings of the balconies and pergolas, were rendered in ‘Brussels style’ in blue and other vivid shades.
As with the Hotel International, the artistic design of both the interiors and the exteriors was entrusted to some outstanding artists. Kateřina Pažoutová describes the circumstances surrounding their cooperation with the team of architects Řihák, Semela and Kovařík: ‘According to Zoubek, the initiating role was played by the architect [Ivan] Ruller, who had seen an exhibition of the art group Trasa and then wrote to its members and invited them to cooperate. The director of the Hotel Continental, formerly director of the restaurant in the Czechoslovak pavilion for Expo 58 in Brussels, welcomed art that could stand international comparison.’ Of the members of the Trasa art group, it was eventually Olbram Zoubek, Eva Kmentová and Čestmír Kafka who participated in the artistic design of the Hotel Continental. They were also joined by Stanislav Libenský, Jaroslava Brychtová, Zdena Preclíková-Fibichová and Otakar Sivera. The architect František Kovářík, a colleague of Řihák, also collaborated on the artistic concept for the interiors.
On the ground floor, in front of the main entrance to the hotel on Kounicova street, there is an eleven-metre-high non-figurative sculpture by Olbram Zoubek entitled Ptáci [Birds] (1964), which is made from cast concrete and covered with white cement finish plaster. Near the sculpture was a small pebble mosaic pool by Eva Kmentová, which, however, has not survived due to inadequate maintenance. In the atrium of the northern façade, an irregular shaped water feature with a travertine statue of a female figure by Zdena Preclíková-Fibichová has survived to this day. Glass sculptures and stained glass windows created at the Železný Brod Glass Art School were placed in the social areas of the hotel. In cooperation with Jaroslava Brychtová and J. Novotný, Stanislav Libenský contributed to the artistic decoration of the interior of the hotel hall (the fountain Květ [Flower], coloured compositions of glass and metal, and stained glass windows in the snack bar). The Železný Brod Glass Art School also created a glass map of Brno to a design by František Kovářík. The expressive perforated walls of the dining room complemented by abstract steel reliefs by Čestmír Kafka have remained intact. The ceramic decoration of the halls was designed by Otakar Sivera. All the guest rooms were adorned with original paintings by Moravian artists.
As with the administrative building of Brno Exhibition Centre and the Hotel International, the Hotel Continental received its fair share of criticism. The critics above all highlighted the number of artistic features, the unusual combinations of materials and the disparateness of forms. However, from today’s perspective, the Hotel Continental can be described as an impressive example of architecture combining elements of the International Style and ‘the Brussels style’, thus reflecting the time in which it was created, when architects in the Eastern Bloc were finally able to build on Brno’s important pre-war architectural heritage in addition to contemporary developments behind the Iron Curtain.
In 2011, the Hotel Continental built an extension for a club and lounges and increased the capacity of the underground garage. The hotel has preserved many valuable details of the interior and exterior and its current management promotes these features in its marketing.