The Jalta Palace was completed in 1929 to the design of architect Jaroslav Josef Polívka. This two-part building is located near the New City Hall, an 18th-century Baroque complex. The basement of the Jalta Palace housed one of the first modern cinemas in Brno – Bio Moderna, together with a restaurant and community rooms. The ground floor level comprised of a shopping arcade, the first and second floor were reserved for offices and the last two floors – for residential spaces.
Shortly after construction was completed, the Palace’s ownership was passed to the Y.W.C.A (Young Women’s Christian Association) who converted the building into the Masaryk’s Girl House. In 1934, the Palace was sold to the Czechoslovak state and since 1954 it has been managed by the Brno City House Company, formerly known as the House Administration of the Municipal National Committee in Brno.
The Bio Moderna was converted into the Jalta cinema in 1949, with the basement restaurant transformed into the City Canteen. Following the Palace’s transition to private ownership in 1989, the original upper floor apartment spaces were given over to the City of Brno building company until 1993.
The upper floors were subsequently vacated, and the ground and first floor remained occupied by Česká pojišťovna, an insurance company which owned the entire building until 2004. Babylon, the first major music club in Brno, was established in place of the former cinema during the same year.
The Brno City Hall attempted to regain ownership of the Palace in 2004 for administrative purposes, but it was not until 2006 that they managed to buy the building from Česká pojišťovna through a disadvantageous exchange from entrepreneur Miroslav Lekeš. The necessary repairs of the now dilapidated building were however too costly for Brno and since 2016 it has been vacant and disused. Recently the Jalta Palace was sold to a duo of Brno developers who started a reconstruction which was finished in 2019.
Text by Barbora Slavíčková
1929Mixed use – Apartments, Cinema, Shopping passage, Offices, restaurant, community rooms
1949 Mixed use – Apartments, Cinema, Shopping passage, Offices, restaurant, community rooms
2018 Mixed use – Office building, shopping passage, apartment
1929 Jaroslav Polívka
1949 City of Brno
2018 Premiere properties s.r.o.
2018 In reconstruction
Form of government
1929 Parliamentary Republic
1949 Socialist Federative Republic
2018 Parliamentary Republic
Spatial Planning Agency
Type of heritage and protection
Interview with Ondřej Chybík
Local / Expert
OC: The first meeting with the palace was… well, I don't remember exactly. But I know that I registered a kind of scramble, who owns the palace, who buys it. Actually, the media showed that it was about a private owner buying it from the city and then after a few years the city bought it back again from the private owner who didn’t take proper care of the building. I do not know exactly how it was, but a lot was written about it, and only then did I really notice the building.
BS: And, what do you find interesting about it? Besides the property background that is there.
OC: It occurred to me that it is one of the town houses, town palaces, which is characterized by the fact that they have a number of functions. It's not the only example, we also have the Alfa Palace, which is similarly multifunctional. And that multi-functionality is very important to me for the city, because people work in that house, people live there, there is space for a restaurant, there used to be a cinema, and today it is a cabaret. I think that buildings in the city should be functionally diverse, because then they perform their function 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and the city is active and lively thanks to the multi-functionality of the buildings.
BS: I agree. In fact, you are currently one of the tenants of the newly renovated Jalta Palace, so I will simply ask you, how do you like your habitat?
OC: Because it's a house in the very centre of the city, it brings a lot of benefits. It's all about being in the city. To be in the city and to be able to experience the city in the maximum possible sense. That when a person goes to work in the morning, he can have breakfast somewhere in the vicinity, when he goes to lunch, he has a lot of options. That when he goes to the post office, he has it right next door and when he needs to do something at the office, it's again just a short distance. So because Brno is a city of short distances, which I believe in, and the centre of Brno can be reached within 5-10 minutes on foot, the house is located in a very strategic location and living or working there is fantastic. Fantastically enjoyed.
BS: Great. One last question. You are an architect, so I will ask you, how do you evaluate the success of the reconstruction?
OC: The reconstruction was done; I think it was with dignity. However, I think there is also one particularly nice thing, and that is that the passage contains the story of the architect and also the structural engineer. This authorial duo, which prepared the project of the house in close cooperation, thus crossed the borders of Europe. Not only the Czech Republic, but Europe. The Jalta Palace structural engineer later worked for Frank Lloyd Wright and is the author of the static solution for the Guggenheim Museum in New York. It spirals, and it is said that Frank Lloyd Wright invented the shape but still got columns into the open spiral shape, but then our engineer came up and invented the concept that allowed them to build a Guggenheim museum without columns. So when we moved into the building, or rather when we were preparing the project of our studio in the Jalta Palace, we left the exposed ceilings, or rather the supporting structure of the ceiling, which consists of a nice reinforced concrete ribbed structure. We discovered it and it is such a manifesto of a relatively interesting static solution from the workshop of this world-famous structural engineer.
BS: Great, so thank you very much!