Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How to hunt an influental Slovenian architect through Ljubljana

So, how many people have heard of Jože Plečnik? I will just go out on the limb here and say probably not many. But, many should have! The first time I heard about this man was in my first post-graduate year in architecture. One of the first design lectures we had on urbanism, urban design and street architecture - Joze Plecnik was shown as a great example of how to do it right. To be honest, prior to this moment in my life I had not really considered a visit to Ljubljana as an important thing. It was love at first sight!

Looking north on a lovely evening toward the Triple Bridge, Prešernov Square and the Franciscan Church...just so charming! 

Even now I remember the lecture slides...all these images of street furniture, sculptures, stair cases, bridges. All these places to sit, relax, enjoy taking it all in. A picnic in Ljubljana, I thought, would be a nice thing to have before it's too late.

The ever busy and vibrant Prešernov Square 

The Franciscan Church on the Northern edge of the Prešernov Square

Well, we did just that - we took it all in over the course of one busy, busy day in the capital of Slovenia. I told Colette right from the get go that I was really keen on checking out "some" of Plecnik's urban design projects. She being the lovely person that she is - ready for any adventure - agreed and told me to find what I wanted to see and that we would tour the place checking out various projects throughout the day.

I went out, I went ALL the way out...

This raw and provocative sculpture decorates the Butchers' Bridge and was created by Slovene sculptor Jakov Brdar

Couples place padlocks on the newly completed bridge, inscribed with their names and the date, very similar to the Parisian Pont des Arts

More of those creepy sculptures, seems like fish heads, and  more of those love-locks...not really a nice thing to do do a sculpture like this

Details on this modern take on the Butchers' Bridge which was completed just last year and it fulfills one of Joze Plecnik's plans for the Ljubljana Central Market drawn up way back in the 1930's

The Dragon Bridge, my bitter adversary!

We arrived there late on Friday evening, went out and had brilliant pasta dinner at Allegria, and retired back to our hotel. The very next morning while Colette waited for a potential CouchSurfer hook-up, I searched the web for information on Plecnik projects in Ljubljana and came upon This website is dedicated to listing his works and exhibits lovely photographs describing their appearance within the urban fabric. So with an image of the "Urbanism" list on my iPhone and a tourist map of Ljubljana in hand, I went pen crazy and marked a whole bunch of sites...well, all of them actually!

The intricate fountain at Pogačar Square

The fountain sculpture forms the edge between the square, it's steps and the walkway that leads out of it through an archway

This was the cutest little display just sitting in a parking spot in front of one home-wares shop, in the background is St. James

Trnovo Quay

Trnovo Bridge

She's a little devil I tells ya!

Despite sore feet, thirst and exhaustion - we had a blast of a day! And aside from making the 10km tour on foot which took an entire day, we still managed to truly enjoy the sights and sounds of Ljubljana's charming urban architecture, street-side cafes and Gothic bridges.

A window into a secret garden just off Emona Street

The garden entrance and it's beautiful decoration

The upper part of the garden and some of Plecnik's signature elements

French Revolution Square - I can just hear my professor - "Now, that is how you frame an obelisk!"

The "borrowed" space created by Plecnik between the road and buildings on Vegova Street, some of the most interesting entrances into buildings but not very universally accessible...

Plecnik also worked on the entry to the Slovene National Theatre

We are in love with the beautiful Gerber Staircase

"Take that Paris!" - the dreamy scene of the river Ljubljanica at night

Being a huge geek, I knew that the map scribble I had in my hand was destined to one day become a great online guide for people wanting to walk a tour of some of Plecnik's most influential and lovely urban design projects...well, here it is for your enjoyment and temptation:

View Ljubljana Plečnik Tour in a larger map

Do visit Ljubljana, it is definitely worth it. They have a fantastic night dining scene and day cafe scene, it's extremely charming and romantic, and finally it's one of the best examples of what great urban architecture can do for the success of a city - Ljubljana is just splendid!

Could not resist the temptation, nor the difficulty of standing still enough for this shot - there are parts of Ljubljana like this available all over the place and the city is especially charming at night

A city has to have a certain level of humor or courage to pull this off in a shop window - granted it was a lingerie shop, but still...

...and what's that in her hand, well if it isn't a list of Poker hands - I'll be damned!

* For a great lunch, do try Julija - a traditional Slovenian kitchen serving up delicious and hearty meals.


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