Brno Journal: Designers save Brutalist building in Czech Republic.

by Ron Bernthal

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Exterior view of waiting room at redesigned Zvonařka Central Bus Terminal in Brno, Czech Republic (all photos by alex shoots buildings/
Courtesy of Chybík + Krištof Architects & Urban Designers)

In May, 2021, the Czech Republic-based Chybík + Krištof Architects and Urban Designers announced the completion of the redesigned Zvonarka Central Bus Terminal in Brno, Czech Republic.

Self-initiated in 2011, this redesign and restoration project saw the architects actively engage in preserving the existing Brutalist structure and its original architectural identity, reflecting Chybík + Krištof’s
commitment to perpetuating architectural heritage. Stressing the station’s central role in the city and region’s sociocultural fabric, the firm addresses the urgency to rethink the use of a decaying transportation hub and public space.

Placing transparency, and access, at the root of their design, the designers
have transformed the bus terminal into a functional entity adapted to current social needs.

The new redesign of the 107,639 square-foot terminal, which was originally built in the late 1980’s in the concrete Brutalist style common under Soviet rule, is now an inviting and colorful building while preserving much of its historic architecture.

Exterior view of original bus terminal

This Brutalist style, which first began in the 1950’s/60’s, was especially popular in the architecture of Eastern Europe from the mid-1960s to the late 1980’s. In Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia, Brutalism was presented as an attempt to create not only a “national” movement, but also as a “modern socialist” architectural style. Such prefabricated socialist era buildings, especially those in the former Czechoslovakia, are called panelaky. The Zvonařka Central Bus Terminal in Brno was probably one of the last panelaky style buldings constructed in Eastern Europe before the fall of communism in 1989.

For most residents and city officials of Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic, it was thought that the bleak-looking and obsolete bus terminal, used by more than 17,000 people every day, did not make a very good visual impression on travelers to the city, and definitely was not a comfortable place to wait for buses.

Architects from the local Chybík + Krištof studio co-initiated the modernization and describe the design project’s results as “aesthetically unifying the space and at the same time increasing its functionality and clarity.”

“Demolitions are a global issue,” said co-founding architect Michal Krištof. “Our role as architects is to engage in these conversations and demonstrate that we no longer operate from a blank page. We need to consider and also work from existing architecture, and gradually shift the conversation from creation to transformation.”

All bus platforms are now connected by a new barrier-free sidewalk, and a new information system with easily readable screens facilitate passenger orientation. The steel structure of the roof was given a new coat of paint, and the entire space is optically enhanced by new lighting, the intensity of which is adjusted automatically to ambient daylight, which not only and saves electricity costs, but is beneficial to the passengers as well.

An elevator to the roof has been added, where bus passengers can now use the 53 parking spaces to leave their cars if they wish. Before the redesign, only buses were parked on the roof. However, the capacity for a hundred parked buses on the roof was maintained. There are now also bike racks in the terminal area.

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“The design and implementation of the reconstruction deserves great recognition,” said Brno Mayor Vaňková. “The building has not lost any of its authenticity, while gaining a modern face. Speaking for the city, I can promise additional modifications to the public space in the immediate vicinity of the Zvonařka terminal.”

“We shaped the building to guide passengers inside. In addition, its distinctive red roof freely transitions into the public area of ​​the station. It was from the position of the hall that a new numbering of platforms also resulted, the first one is now right next to it,” said architect Ondřej Chybík.

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