It was reported in November that Darko Brlek, the director of Festival Ljubljana, managed to persuade the Slovenian government to sell its share of Plečnik's final masterpiece, Križanke, to the Municipality of Ljubljana, and thus put it under the full control of the Festival. If this were to happen, then the High School of Design and Photography (Srednja šola za dizajn in fotografijo, SŠOF), the alma mater of many great artists and interesting personalities, including Melania Trump, will have to move out of the premises by 2022.
Now the school has launched a petition, hoping to create some social pressure and reverse the deal, with the aim of keeping Križanke in public ownership and continue the tradition of educating the next generation of artists and designers in this architectural treasure.
Matea Benedetti, the owner of Benedetti Life, the ethical luxury fashion brand, shared the petition with the comment: “SSOF, my high school, the best school ever that belongs to Križanke only. Sign (the petition), because only the best people come out of a location like this. I can still feel Plečnik.”
In 1200 the original property where Knights Templar settled after returning from the Crusades was acquired by the German Order of the Holy Cross, who not long after built a monastery there. The monastery went through many reconstructions, and in the 18th century was joined by a church.
In its current form, however, Križanke were designed by the famous architect Jože Plečnik, who, following the nationalisation process of 1945, reconstructed the old monastery with medieval, renaissance and baroque elements for the use of the high school, summer theatre and restaurant between the years of 1952 and 1956. In 2016 Križanke was finally granted a status of a cultural monument of national importance.
However, 2016 was also the year when the harmonious coexistence between Festival Ljubljana and the school started to crumble. The large retractable canopy above the summer open theatre was damaged by snow, and the support stakes that had kept it in place for decades were pulled out of the school walls. Festival Ljubljana then attempted to fasten the roof back the way it was before, but the school refused the move, citing the structural report it ordered for the evaluation of the static condition of the building. The director of Festival Ljubljana, Darko Brlek, then started his efforts to get the school out of the premises altogether, a mission which he’s currently on track to achieve.
However, according to Mladina magazine eyebrows are being raised about the limited understanding of the situation the state has shown in its decision to hand Križanke over to the Ljubljana city government. It is not clear what Festival Ljubljana, which does not put on its own productions, will do with the large building it wants to occupy, other than getting some additional storage, offices and, above all, closing it to the public and any other potential users.
The most important part of today’s Križanke is that the building remains in constant use and is alive with energy of young people being educated in the most inspirational of surroundings, with an effect that extends to the broader environment of the city, and on into the careers of its alumni. Without the school present many claim that the centre of Ljubljana would lose some of its vitality and connection to the living culture, turning into a polished yet somewhat fake town for tourists to spend money in, but with little for the locals to explore. In such an environment the valuable cultural heritage that Križanke represents, which perhaps should not even be for sale, would lose both meaning and value.
Moreover, the plans for the new building that the High School of Design and Photography is supposed to move to in 2022 have not yet been approved, and there’s no word yet on when construction would begin.
You can do you part to help save the school but signing the petition here.