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Classicism Meets Modernity In Ljubljana

NOTICE: Year 2017 is dedicated to architect Jože Plečnik so it is a good reason to visit the city. Climb the Ljubljana Castle to visit the exhibition Plečnik over the City.

Have you ever asked yourselves what happend to classical architecture after the emergence of modernism? While many arhitects in this part of Europe practiced Bauhaus style in Ljubljana you can discover some nice examples of Classicism meets Modernity style. The city is very good example of preserving the human scale even in the 21st century.

The most famous architect of this style in Slovenia is Jože Plečnik, a man who decided to continue the classical tradition instead of breaking it. Plečnik was using roman and baroque references he found in the city and developed them further into an elaborate craftsman style. You might read he was the man who built Ljubljana, but it was not like that. He seamlesly inserted his new buildings into the city’s old town so that his deeply creative designs became the symbols of Ljubljana.

A city is not a work of geniuses. It is the work of humble crafstmen and the by-product of it’s own continuing conversation with itself – Roger Scruton

 

If you are visiting Ljubljana chances are high you will start your tour at the train or bus station. Nearby you can find Miklošičeva Cesta 19 and his Triglav Insurance Building finished in 1930. Immediately you can recognize a rich brick facade with brick columns and stone stripes. Baroque balustrades on the balconies are something Plečnik used in his many designs. Originally parts of the building were owned by Catholic church so there was a chapel integrated into the ground floor. As a remainder to it there is a Mother of God carved on the northern facade. Unfortunately you will not be able to enter the building as a tourist.

Prešern Square at the center of the city will discover you his two masterpieces: the Triple Bridge and the Central Market. Plečnik redesigned the older bridge in 1929 and added two side footbridges with concrete lamps and balustrades. The whole bridge design is tapered towards the square and it points you to the Ljubljana Castle’s tower. Can you imagine the bridge was used by vehicles until 2007 when it was pedestrianized? Interestingly enough the side bridges have double stairs that lead you down to the terraces, closer to the river banks. It’s possible to hire a boat on Ljubljanica River if you want a full experience of passing under the bridge.

As you get hungry you shoud definitely visit the Central Market – you will find some delicious food here. Other delicacies will include classical colonnades and porticoes where you can relax an have a cup of coffee. Please visit the internal stone staircase that will lead you to the fishmarket underneath. There should have been a classical bridge crossing the river (Butcher’s bridge) but the building was left unfinished in 1944. Today you can find steel and glass bridge built in 2010. You have to cross the river if you want to see the whole building. As you walk Petkovškovo nabrežje (that’s a street name) with multitude of bars you will have numerous vistas. You can notice the fish market underneath the ground floor with arched windows or classical porticos breaking the colonnades.

Triple Bridge and Central Market
Central Market Portico

Plečniks’ library in Turjaška street 1 – a magnificent building, similar to Florence’s palaces. Apparently Plečnik was inspired by Medici Riccardi palace in Florence. You can read the interior on the facade – that giant window with a column is where the central Reading room is placed. You might find this building interesting for its façade, as it uses bricks and uneven stones to overcome its volume and make it more friendly. Notice the door handles have the shape of horse heads. Here also you can find some usual Plečnik patterns like concrete balustrades, brick and uneven stone façade and unusual crafted details (just like Triglav Insurance Building).

As you enter inside you will find a monumental staircase and a lots of beautiful craft like vibrant marble benches or elegant lamps. If you want to enter the Reading room by yourself you must visit at Saturdays from 14 – 14.30 and contact the library reception.

At Karun Street 4-6 you can visit Plečnik’s house and studio. There you can buy some books and monographs and have a guided tour of his studio. Facebook page here.

National and University Library

There is no better way to finish your tour than drinking a beer in a skyscraper with a view. Go to Nebotičnik Skyscraper Bar at Štefanova Ulica 1 and take a lift to the top. The 13 storey high (70 meters) Skyscraper was designed by Vladimir Šubic and finished in 1933. Šubic was inluenced by Louis Sullivan skycraper designs – there is a retail base with huge shopwindows, a residential shaft and a cap with round-topped windows and cylindricall colonnade. The glazed box at the top is where you want to go.

This undiscovered city will teach you the forgotten lesson of building dense cities in touch with tradition again. Well done Ljubljana!

 

Gallery

“A façade without any decoration is like a person who never smiles.” Plečnik

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