Not many cities can be described as being the work of one architect. By their very nature, cities are too big for such mono-creativity. Ljubljana is no ordinary city though. Not a corner of Ljubljana can be turned without coming face to face (or foot to foot) with the work of another fabulously moustachioed chap, one Jože Plečnik. His work isn’t just confined to ol’ Joobs though, and many of the delightful buildings travel writers have waxed lyrical about in Prague and Vienna are his work. But then who the heck is Jože Plečnik, aside from the most important artist to come out of Slovenia of course.
Befitting the city that informally bears his name, Plečnik was born in Ljubjana on the 23rd of January in 1872, the fourth child of carpenter Andrej Plečnik and his wife Helena. As with most kiddywinkles in the 19th century, the assumption was the little Jože would follow in daddy’s footsteps. Little Jože had other ideas though. As his studies progressed, he secured himself a spot at the school of Industry and Crafts in Graz, hometown of Arnold Schwarzenegger. From here our Plečnik moved to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.
In Vienna Jože kind of half followed in his father’s footsteps as he found himself designing furniture. This wasn’t the most intense of jobs though, so he found himself spending a lot of time visiting galleries, museums and exhibitions. It was at one of these exhibitions that he saw Otto Wagner’s plans for a cathedral in Berlin. This is often referred to as a turning point for Mr Plečnik. Just a few years later, Plečnik would find himself under the teachings of Wagner (1894-97).
As we’ll see, Plečnik’s professional life is divided into three periods, and Vienna represents the first of these. His work on the Zacherl House in 1905 was something of a coming out party for the Slovene, when he established himself as one of the finest young architects on the continent. The second period was about to begin.