Joze Plecnik was a great Slovenian architect who tried to model the city of Ljubljana on ancient Athens. His style is associated with the Vienna Secession style of architecture, and his works dramatically transformed the identity of the city of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. A student of the famous architect Otto Wagner, Plecnik was someone known for his innovative and original designs characterized by elements of both classical principles of architecture as well as folk art traditions. He is credited to have designed several pioneering works of modern architecture and has left his indelible impact not only in the architecture of Ljubljana, but also on the European cities Vienna and Prague. Even though he undertook very few projects in Prague, he achieved phenomenal fame for his renovation work on the Prague Castle for use as the presidential residence. He also had a career as a teacher at the Arts and Crafts College where he inspired several young artists and architects with his brilliant teaching techniques. As an architect, he led to the complete transformation of the city of Ljubljana which was in dire need of a drastic make-over following the long Baroque period. He gave the city its modern, visitor-friendly identity by designing major projects like the Triple Bridge over the Ljubljanica and the iconic building, the Slovene National and University Library
Childhood & Early Life
Joze Plecnik was born on 23 January 1872, in Ljubljana, as the fourth child of carpenter Andrej Plečnik and his wife Helena.
After attending elementary school in Ljubljana he started working in his father’s workshop and also attended trade school. He later on studied drawing under Leopold Theyer and was employed to draw furniture for the J. W. Müller company in Vienna.
As a young man he studied under the legendary Viennese architect and educator Otto Wagner from 1894 to 1897, and also worked with him for some time.
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At the beginning of his career he lived and worked primarily in Vienna where he undertook famous projects like the Langer House (1900) and the Zacherlhaus (1903–1905).
From early on, his works were marked with elements of Secession although they were designed in a modern style. He was also a very creative and innovative individual who developed a unique style of his own as he gained experience.
In 1910, he started working on the ‘Church of the Holy Spirit’; this project would ultimately be completed in 1913. The church’s crypt with its slender concrete columns and angular, cubist capitals and bases attracted a lot of attention for its unconventional design.
Along with his career as an architect he also embarked on a career as an educator. He moved to Prague in 1911 in order to take up a teaching position at the Arts and Crafts college.
He proved to be a very able teacher and inspired several young and aspiring artists and architects to develop their skills. He emphasized on both classical principles of architecture as well as folk art traditions.
In 1920, the Czech President at the time, Tomáš Masaryk, appointed Plečnik chief architect for the 1920 renovation of the Prague Castle. Over the next 14 years he completed various projects around the famous castle including renovations of the gardens and monuments.
He designed numerous new interior spaces and installed monuments and sculptures. His design of the Plecnik Hall, finished in 1930, which features three levels of abstracted Doric colonnades, became especially well-known.
In 1921, the Ljubljana School of Architecture was established in his hometown of Ljubljana, and he was invited by fellow architect Ivan Vurnik to join the school as one of its first members of faculty.
While in Ljubljana, Joze Plecnik was also asked to work on the remodeling of the city. He began working on revamping the city, completely transforming it into a beautiful and wonderful place that was a delight for visitors. He was provided with ample financial support for his works and the authorities were very happy with the way he changed the look of the city.
Even though he followed the principles of classical architecture, he imbued his works with his original and creative ideas to give Ljubljana, its modern identity. As a part of this massive project he designed the Slovene National and University Library building, the Vzajemna Insurance Company Offices, the Ljubljana open market buildings, the Ljubljana cemetery, and most notably, the ‘Triple Bridge’ over the Ljubljanica and the market along the riverbank.
Though he continued teaching even after entering his seventies, his duties were considerably reduced because of his advancing age. During his later years he focused on smaller projects like fountains and church renovations.
He gave the city of Ljubljana its modern identity by designing many of its iconic buildings. These include: Slovene National and University Library building, Vzajemna Insurance Company Offices, Ljubljana open market buildings, Ljubljanica River banks, parks, plazas etc.
Awards & Achievements
He won a gold medal for his salon at the World's Fair in St Louis, Missouri (USA), in 1904.
Personal Life & Legacy
He lived a long life, most of which he dedicated to his beloved profession, and died on 7 January 1957, at the age of 84, in Ljubljana.
On 23 January, 2012, on the occasion of the 140th anniversary of Plečnik's birth, Google came out with a doodle of the Triple Bridge that was designed by him