The Slovenia Times

Plečnik's unrealised projects visualised


Ljubljana owes much of its cohesive urban design to the great modernist architect Jože Plečnik. With his holistic approach to architecture, he transformed the city from a provincial town into a national capital. However, he never got to complete his grand vision as many of his detailed plans suggest.

Perhaps one of his best known unrealised projects is Cathedral of Freedom, a monumental building meant to house Slovenia's parliament, which Plečnik designed in the shape of a square, colonnaded facade surrounding the cylindrical two-storey main building and surmounted by a 120-metre conical cupola.

The building, which was to be located in Tivoli Park, has become a prominent national symbol, having been used on the first postage stamp issued in independent Slovenia in 1991 as well as on the Slovenian 10-cent euro coin.

In a bid to shed life on this and several other Plečnik's unrealised projects, Nejc Bernik, a researcher at the ZRC SAZU France Stele Institute of Art History, has visualised them with the help of 3D modelling, video animation and 3D prints in a way that is accessible to anyone.

Bernik began to take interest in Plečnik's unrealised designs when Ljubljana set out to commission a bridge linking the central market with the other side of the Ljubljanica. The idea of the Butcher's Bridge was Plečnik's although a new design was picked in a competition. The bridge opened in 2010.

It was Plečnik's detailed design of what was to be a covered bridge which persuaded Bernik to try to visualise it with the help of modern technology. Over the past years he has visualised several of the architect's projects and he keeps working on new ones.

Plečnik (1872-1957), who also made his mark on Vienna and Prague, began realising his vision of Ljubljana after he moved back to his birth city in 1921. His designs were ambitious but he would always look for a holistic whole. "Despite their grandeur, his were never just buildings but their prime purpose was to serve people," says Bernik.

Plečnik was also careful how to integrate his projects into the overall urban design. In the south-eastern corner of the central market, where there is now the WOW installation meant to attract tourists, he envisaged a New Town Hall featuring an indoor market.

He also wanted to link the Castle Hill with the City Square by means of a monumental staircase leading up from the Town Hall. All of those projects have been visualised by Bernik.

In the future he would also like to make visualisations and 3D models of Odeon, a majestic music hall planned by Plečnik to extend from his stairs at the bottom of Congress Square to the Makalonca pier and Dvorni Trg, his National Gallery project by Tivoli Castle and a music hall near the SNG Drama Theatre.

The reason these projects never came to life was not their boldness. Bernik notes that Plečnik enjoyed strong support from the city authorities. The new Town Hall and the Butcher's Bridge had already been given a go-ahead but than the Second World War broke out and after the war the new Communist authorities had different ideas.

Apart from major unrealised projects there are also several smaller projects designed by Plečnik that would never be implemented, including parish churches and houses, which Bernik says are still fresh today and worth the attention.


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