Jože Plečnik: the Architect of Ljubljana Design Masterpieces

Jože Plečnik is someone we can call a modern hero to the people. Unlike many heroes, he didn’t fight in a war or push for freedom. Instead, Plečnik created most of what we now know as Ljubljana through his stunning architecture.

Jože Plečnik is among the most notable Slovenian architects in Europe. His creations and style had a significant impact, not only on Slovenia but in other countries too. His works span as far as Vienna and Prague, making Ljubljana the stunning beauty it is now.

This pioneer of the 20th century shaped Ljubljana, like how Gaudi developed Barcelona. Let’s look through his life, his works, his masterpieces, and how he changed the Old Town.

The Early Years of A Budding Master

Not many cities in the world can claim that they came from one architect. Even then, Ljubljana is not an ordinary city, and Jože Plečnik led the way. The early life of Plečnik reflects the very influence that he had on Ljubljana.

Plečnik was the second son of Andrej Plečnik and Helena Molka. Andrej is a carpenter by profession, hailing from Hotedrščica in the Notranjska region. His mother Helena was a native of Ljubljana, with the family living in Gradišče, Škofljica – part of Lower Carniola.

His youth was simple, having two brothers and two sisters. His father picked Jože to succeed in the family business. His older brother, also named Andrej, becoming a priest. His younger brother, Janez, in turn, became a doctor.

After Plečnik dropped out of high school, he had a fascination with painting. His father sends him to learn under Ferdo Vesel but eventually left the hobby. Jože finally went back home and became a carpenter’s apprentice.

Much of the architectural experience of Plečnik comes from education and practical experience. He helped his professor, Leopold Theyer, to draw the plans for the Graz ring renovation. He then traveled to Vienna, where he designed his own furniture.

Plečnik studied and worked with another noted architect, Viennese educator Otto Wagner. He was part of Wagner’s architectural office until left in 1900.

The Start of Jože Plečnik’s Civic Architecture Career

Jože Plečnik started his magnificent architectural works in Vienna. Some of his works began with the Viennese U-Bahn stations back in the 1900s. Specifically, he worked on the Friedensbrücke, Pilgramgasse, and Roßauer Lände stations. 

His first-ever solo work is the Villa Langer in the 13th district in Vienna. This build was his first commission, completed in 1901. From here, he took on several more commissions around Vienna itself.

Plečnik had a very modernist, Viennese secession-era architecture. The style was intricate, artistic, and had the makings of what would be Czech Cubism. His design had a lot of sharp points and even crystalline planes that became the go-to style of the time.

By 1911, the well-traveled architect traveled to Prague and taught at the School of Arts and Crafts until 1921. During this time, he also populated Prague with many of his avant-garde creations. These include the Prague Castle and the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord.

Around this time during the war, Plečnik and his students are gaining notoriety across Europe. By 1921, he returned to Ljubljana to retire. The old master did not, in any way, go inactive, as this was the start of his journey to making the Old Town more beautiful.

Jože Plečnik in Ljubljana

When Jože Plečnik returned to Ljubljana, he spent his time teaching and around many architectural works. During this time, he was a very controversial figure, mostly because of his worldviews. 

Plečnik was a modernist in mid-1920s Slovenia. The Communist Party of Slovenia put heavy pressure on Plečnik and his career. Even then, he went on and became a prominent figure.

The great architect’s first creation in Ljubljana is the old Bežigrad Stadium. The stadium, now in disrepair, was a central figure during its heyday. Now, its beauty still emanates even after the local government abandoned the overhaul project.

Plečnik also worked on the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Šiška, from 1925 – 1927. He made himself busy with many architectural wonders of Ljubljana around this time. The architect worked on the Vzajemna zavarovalnica building and the Church of St. Michael (Sveti Mihael na Barju).

One of his most notable works, however, is the Tromostovje or the Triple Bridge. The original architect of the central bridge was Giovanni Picco, but he improved on the design. He recreated the style of the bridge, adding two adjacent bridges.

The two footbridges had a slight angle on them, designed to alleviate traffic. The two bridges were there for pedestrians, while the central bridge was for vehicles and carriages. Now, the entire architecture is a primary attraction in Ljubljana’s pedestrian-only zone.

Around this time, Plečnik also designed the house of knowledge of the Old Town. He designed the Slovene National and University Library in 1930 and finished in 1941. The entire project was magnificent, combining elements that seemed to clash at first.

The facade itself is Italian Renaissance-inspired, while the columns are temple marble. The reading room is as beautiful as ever, with a world of knowledge in it.

Jože Plečnik further designed more iconic buildings in the city of Ljubljana. He shaped what the town looked like, from its markets to its civic buildings. Plečnik redesigned the Old Town’s parks, plazas, cemeteries, and even open markets.

The last major project for Plečnik was converting the Križanke monastery into an outdoor theater. Other smaller projects at the time were the Prešeren Theater, Plečnik Arcades, and more, but these are all in Kranj.

A Walking Guide to Plečnik

For tourists, there are five notable places designed by Plečnik that people would surely enjoy visiting. They all emanate the personal impact of Jože Plečnik to Ljubljana and the local architecture.

These places are:

  • Slovene National and University Library
  • Triple Bridge and Cobblers’ Bridge
  • Church of St. Michael on the Marshes
  • Trnovo Pier
  • Ljubljana Central Market

Each locale asserts the genius of Plečnik and how he combined different architectures of various times.

Slovene National and University Library

Like we mentioned before, the National and University Library carries much of Plečnik’s legacy with it. Its beautiful exterior came from the Zuccari Palace in Rome. Each of its two handles has a Pegasus head on each one as well.

When visiting the Slovene National and University Library, it’s best to take your time and look around. Going inside at once will make you miss the gorgeous exterior and the dramatic statue of Moses.

Triple Bridge and Cobblers’ Bridge

The Triple Bridge and the Cobblers’ Bridge are two beautiful civic buildings created to show the beauty of the city. Their dramatic designs offer a portal into what Ljubljana has to offer. If you get to visit the Old Town, Plečnik’s stamp is all over these two locales.

The Triple Bridge is bustling and beautiful – a reminder of Ljubljana’s ornate past. The Cobblers’ Bridge always has something happening, with street theaters, musicals, and cafes. The open-air venue shows off what Ljubljana has become – a modern center of trade.

Church of St. Michael on the Marshes

The Church of St. Michael in the Marshes is one of what we call luxurious architecture. The visuals of the entire church have Plečnik’s fingerprints all over, using recycled materials and local labor. The unique church on a marshy swamp village makes it stand out.

The construction of the Church of St. Michael is outstanding. It’s worth a quick visit if every you get to the Ljubljana barje. Every corner seeps of the beautiful history and auspicious sensitivity that the entire building emanates.

Trnovo Pier

Compared to his other works, Plečnik’s design of the Trnovo Pier is minimalist. The stepped embankment shows one of the most gorgeous river promenades in Slovenia. The reshaped river port offers a breathtaking symmetry that helps people relax.

On a quiet afternoon visit, the Trnovo Pier is a place of simple contemplation. It’s a place where you can enjoy pleasant midday looking at nature and have a simple chat with friends.

Ljubljana Central Market

For tourists, the Ljubljana Central Market is a world on its own. Its place along the Ljubljanica River is reminiscent of beautiful Venetian palaces and embankments. It’s one of Ljubljana’s most recognizable locales that offer a rich visual of Plečnik’s work.

The renowned architect modeled the riverside using Italian Renaissance techniques. The lavishness of the design shows the meticulous but sharp lines of the riverside wall. On the street side, ornate antique columns line the beautiful market.

The Man Who Gave Ljubljana its Identity

The works of Jože Plečnik shaped Ljubljana into what it is today. Its rare to claim that one man redesigned and overhauled an entire city into a wondrous locale. Even then, it’s hard to deny the identity that Plečnik gave to the town itself.

Plečnik’s work is still under scrutiny, even today. Ljubljana is the living embodiment of his work, vision, and untiring love for design. The design of iconic buildings under his purview created a city full of old-world mirth and beauty.

If you plan on visiting Ljubljana, feast your eyes on the masterful works of Jože Plečnik. You will see that in every corner of the city, he lives on watching the town grow. Each of his creations is paving the way for a beautiful Ljubljana.

Bring a tourist guide with you to Ljubljana so you can see all of Plečnik’s works. Every pillar tells a story, and every line speaks of the world designed by a master artist.

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