Visiting Plečnik’s house in Ljubljana
The great Slovene architect Jože Plečnik (1872-1957) was a visionary and a reformer. He was a pioneer in urban planning. His legacy belongs to Ljubljana, Vienna and Prague. His works were marked with elements of Secession although they were designed in a modern style.
by Sonja Bezjak
With modesty, quietly and in a reticent manner we entered the home of the great Slovene and European architect in Trnovo in Ljubljana. And we indulged ourselves into the beauty and richness of his works, still very much present, even though the artist is no longer among us .
Master Plečnik returns from Prague
The great architect moved to his house in Trnovo in Ljubljana in 1921, after returning from Prague, when he began lecturing architecture to Ljubljana students.
Two of the doors had to be opened and closed before a spacious garden appeared in front of our eyes and the scent of a great architectural master started to blow from all sides. On 4 Karunova Street master Plečnik has found refuge from the bourgeois life.
A long view stretched between the branches of the mighty gingko tree and a branched cherry, which were giving company to an oak, walnut, yew tree and a Christmas holly. The warm voice of the curator of the Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana Ana Porok began to tell about the time, long left behind, when Plečnik had been walking around the garden.
‘Look at this glasshouse, the pillars remained from the construction of the Vzajemna Ljubljana Health insurance house, and stone paving of the building of the National University Library (Slovenian NUK).”
South facade is just the right starting point for the immediate realization of our great luck. At this address we will be closely and intimately experiencing the master’s great works.
Ivy at the entrance
The lock gritted and in front of us the entrance hall of Plečnik’s house opened. From here on wards, each piece of the equipment will tell its own story and with each one we will become richer in peace and beauty.
The bright entrance hall is adorned with green ivy, which the architect’s hand planted. Plečnik just loved greenery, and this is still possible to admire in his creations. Somewhere between the leaves, the statue of the local patron saint Joseph greets us.
On the stone floor among the flowers the fragments of Emona Ljubljana are exhibited, as well as pieces of rocks which the architect brought from his travels.
In the corner of the stairs there is a Reception area to welcome the arrival of guests. The table and ascetic bench are letting the guest know that they will not be staying for too long. We certainly need to understand – Plečnik had always work waiting for him.
The master still “lives” in the house
After a few stairs we climb into the house. In those ancient times only a few were able to continue to the guest reception room, which smells of wood. We are lucky, as friendly curator invites us forward.
On the left, the stairs lead us into the kitchen, where by the oven a chair is waiting for the master to sit on. Here he picks up a pencil and a sketchpad and with a careful line announces his new, clear thoughts.
On the table a cup for a real, black, Turkish coffee is ready. If Plečnik was at home, or his housekeeper Urška at least, we certainly could smell the coffee. From the kitchen we can also observe the trees, and the green ivy which adorns the wall-sized windows of the entrance hall.
Is Mr. Architect maybe in the studio? The thoughts ask the question themselves…
Continuing down the hallway we entered the extension of the house, which speaks to the spirit quite differently.
We enter quietly and behind us we close the doors of the round room, which overlooks down on the sleepy garden. In the infinite space that is all in one, Plečnik worked and rested.
Hours with the students
It cannot be long, since the architect has been gone. The desk is filled with pens and feathers, including notes, books, somewhere in between his glasses lie and a pair of black shoes under the desk …
On the wooden beams on the ceiling a gold muse sophistically invites and calls to work. Her power has been remarkable. Behind this large wooden table Plečnik was tirelessly sketching for decades.
Even more of the tranquillity comes into space, when we realize that master’s life ended in this room; but far from it, that we could anticipate even the breath of death. Although it is the autumn, the smell of the wood, pictures on the walls, selected souvenirs and pictures testify about the life.
On the stairs up which are wrapped around a cylindrical core, we climb higher among the treetops to the room, which Plečnik’s younger brother Janez (Engl. John) decorated. Their different characters – Jože’s ascetic serious and reserved and Janez’s sociable and playful – soon separated the two brothers.
When the latter moved out after a few months of living together, in an empty room Plečnik arranged another studio. This is where during the Second World War he hosted the students of Architecture. Despite the war circumstances trained them in his art.
Not one day is quite the same
We descend again and below the stairs we disappear into the narrow passage, which compresses the soul. But only for a moment. Then in a bright glass house that smells of citruses and oleanders the soul expands again and breathes in the full enthusiasm.
The day would be the same as the other if we wouldn’t know the joyful excitement which is born from the pools of the beautiful, full and inexhaustibly rich.
In the cold shadow of the early winter Plečnik’s apiary is resting and a resting vegetable garden gives him hope that spring will come again…
If you felt like looking even deeper, then it is definitely time to visit Plečnik’s house at Karunova 4 in Ljubljana. The experts from the Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana will tell you more and so much more with the greatest enthusiasm.
For text in Slovene click HERE!