Ljubljana related

11 Dec 2019, 11:33 AM

STA, 10 December 2019 - A Ljubljana stadium designed by acclaimed architect Jože Plečnik in the 1920s has been shortlisted as one of the 14 pieces of European cultural heritage that could be put on a list of seven most endangered pieces.

The 7 Most Endangered pieces of European heritage will be declared in March 2020, the European Commission Representation in Slovenia said in a release on Tuesday.

The stadium was nominated for protection within a campaign of the pan-European Europa Nostra organisation and the European Investment Bank Institute by the Ljubljana Association of Architects.

The association would like to protect this masterpiece of Plečnik's, which has been been decaying for a decade, so that it could be used again in its original form.

Related: Shameful Condition of Plečnik's Stadium in Ljubljana: An Example of Poor Governance?

The landmark stadium began to be built in 1925 for a Catholic sports association as one of the first such facilities in Europe.

In 2003, Slovenian rock band Siddharta filled it with 30,000 fans for a memorable concert, while Depeche Mode played there in 2006.

One of the most notorious events associated with it is the oath the Slovenian pro-Nazi militia Domobranci swore to Adolf Hitler in 1944.

The Bežigrad stadium, as it is sometimes referred to, was used for sport events and concerts until 2007, while efforts to renovate it have turned into a saga.

At the time, entrepreneur Joc Pečečnik's GSA company entered a partnership with the city of Ljubljana and the Slovenian Olympic Committee to renovate it.

Their company BŠP closed the stadium in January 2008, while in 2009 the Berlin-based GMP studio was selected in a public tender to renovate it.

But since then, a combination of problems surrounding the environmental permit, locals complaining about a piece of land between the stadium and their blocks of flats, and a civil initiative insisting the stadium be preserved in its original form has pushed the project into a limbo.

The 7 Most Endangered programme was launched in January 2013 as a civil society campaign to protect European heritage, although it brings no direct funding.

It identifies the most threatened monuments, sites and landscapes in Europe and mobilises public and private partners to find viable solutions.

All our stories on Plečnik are here, while those on architecture are here

09 Dec 2019, 14:03 PM

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.”

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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.

15 Oct 2019, 16:31 PM

Jože Plečnik was the architect responsible for many of Ljubljana’s most iconic and well-known features, like Triple Bridge and the Market Arcades, or Križanke and Shoemaker’s Bridge. But despite the grand projects that Plečnik was able to complete, in Slovenia and abroad, there were other plans that remained even grander, and unrealised.

Starting on 18 October and running until 26 January, 2020, visitors to the Plečnik House (Karunova 4–6, Ljubljana 1000) will have a further delight to go with the many they’ll find when touring the great man’s home, designed to his own demanding specifications and full of characteristic touches. In these months the museum is hosting an exhibition titled Plečnik’s Unrealised Projects for Ljubljana, which will show how the city would have looked if the architect had been able to build four of his major works: New Town Hall, Butchers’ Bridge (on the site where the one with "lovers locks" now crosses the river), a monumental octagon with a tower on the Castle Hill and the Cathedral of Freedom in Tivoli Park.

While sketches of these works have long existed, the displays for this show utilised 3D modelling, visualisation and 3D printing, bringing them to life in the context of the city today, as seen in the following images.


New Town Hall: Nejc Bernik, ZRC-SAZU


New Town Hall: Nejc Bernik, ZRC-SAZU


Plan for New Town Hall. Source: MGML


Butcher's Bridge: Nejc Bernik, ZRC-SAZU


Butcher's Bridge: Nejc Bernik, ZRC-SAZU


Plan for Butcher's Bridge. Source. MGLM


An addition to Ljubljana Castle. Nejc Bernik, ZRC-SAZU


Plan for an addition to Ljubljana Castle. Source: MGML


 Plan for an addition to Ljubljana Castle. Source: MGML


The Cathedral of Freedom, Tivoli Park. Source: Nejc Barnik, ZRC-SAZU


The Cathedral of Freedom, Tivoli Park. Source: Nejc Barnik, ZRC-SAZU


Plan for the Cathedral of Freedom. Source: MGML. If you have a 10-cent coin you might be able to see this on one side - one of Slovenia's contributions to the visual image of the euro...

The exhibition is free to enter with a ticket to the Plečnik House, which also includes a very informative guided tour of the building, as written up here. Tickets are €6 for adults, €4 for the over 60s, students, and children. The place is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 to 18:00, and closed on Monday. More details here.

28 Jun 2019, 14:08 PM

STA, 27 June 2019 - An exhibition on famous Slovenian architect and designer Jože Plečnik (1872-1957) and his designs of sacred objects opened in the Vatican Museums on Thursday evening, featuring 33 selected liturgical vessels as well as video presentations of his sacred architectural works.


Related: Playful and Austere - A Visit to Plečnik's House in Ljubljana

The opening was attended and addressed by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and Culture Minister Zoran Poznič.

Šarec said at a reception for Slovenian Statehood Day, which followed the opening of the exhibition, that Slovenia should be proud and happy as this was the first Slovenian exhibition in the Vatican.

"Jože Plečnik is the greatest son of Slovenian architecture. He was a deeply religious man, which is perhaps less known, and it is not a coincidence that he created objects which we admire today."

Minister Poznič said that it was one of the largest events in culture this year. "The exhibition tells us how our artist, master Plečnik, associated the spiritual and material works in his work," he was quoted by the Culture Ministry.

Labelling Plečnik as one of the greatest men in Slovenian cultural history, the minister said that the "exhibition is an exceptional opportunity, serving as a booster of what sometimes we as a society lack - self-confidence."

Barbara Jatta, the director of the Vatican Museums, is happy that Pinacoteca Vaticana is hosting an "important exhibition of sacral objects by Jože Plečnik, a great architect and designer of the 20th century".

"Plečnik created an original and innovative style, which shows both in his church architecture and in the field of liturgical vessels," Jatta was quoted by the Ljubljana Museum and Galleries (MGML).

According to Peter Krečič, an expert on Plečnik's life and work who arranged the exhibition in cooperation with the Plečnik House curator Ana Porok, Europe and the world truly discovered the greatness of the architect's opus after his work was presented at the Paris Pompidou Centre in 1986.

Primarily famous for being an architect and urbanist, he was also a great designer, with his work being mostly showcased in three European capitals - Vienna, Prague and Ljubljana.

He established himself at the beginning of the 20th century by designing the famous Zacherl Palace in Vienna, then moved on to renovating the Prague Castle and its vicinity, transforming them into the symbol and political centre of a modern democratic state.

Plečnik also turned his hometown Ljubljana into a modern capital, having designed iconic buildings and spaces there.

Encouraged by his brother, who was a priest, he started designing liturgical vessels in 1913, including chalices, ciboria and monstrances, thus revolutionising traditional concepts of such design by introducing modern, clear lines and simple decoration featuring gemstones.

Designing the vessels, Plečnik drew inspiration from the art of sculpture, which makes those designs stand out and provides that transcendent aesthetic value which is essential to experience the sacred, according to Krečič.

The exhibition, entitled Plečnik and the Sacred, has been put on by the MGML in cooperation with the Slovenian Embassy to the Holy See, the Culture Ministry, the Ljubljana Archdiocese and Vatican Museums.

According to the MGML, Plečnik is the first Slovenian artist whose work will be showcased at the Vatican Museums. The exhibition will run until 7 September.

On Wednesday, Pope Francis received sculptor and painter Miko Simčič, the author of a one-tonne bust of the pope, made of Carrara marble, and standing on a pedestal made of two-colour Hotavlje marble.

Simčič said he had made the bust with the pope's approval, which he sees as a great honour, as Pope Francis had so far been rejecting the idea. The bust will be housed in the Vatican, and the artist wants to make more of them and give them to various cathedrals around the world.

You can learn more about the exhibition here

06 May 2019, 14:03 PM

This week's photo is of of Cobbler's Bridge / Shoemaker's Bridge / Cevljarski most, one of the prettiest in Ljubljana, and - as you might be able to guess from the columns - another of Jože Plečnik's contributions. Note that this view comes from Fishmarket Footbridge, a more recent and easy to miss structure between Shoemaker's and the Triple Bridge, but a structure that's one of the best photo spots in town.

It comes to us from Xenia Guzej, who lives and works in Ljubljana and shares her love of the city on Instagram, with a page called ljubljanamylove, where you can also find this earlier picture of the week, showing the bridge in another season.

01 Apr 2019, 11:30 AM

April 1, 2019

In 2007 Slovenia celebrated the 50th anniversary of the death of Slovenia’s greatest architect, Jože Plečnik. In the same year an inter-ministerial commission was established to carry out the strategy of the protection of cultural and natural heritage, following the 1972 UNESCO recommendation and other legal international commitments for preservation of civilizational achievements.

One of the stages of this process was to prepare a preliminary list of potential world heritage candidates, and in this process all of Plečnik’s work in Ljubljana was declared cultural heritage of national importance in 2009, hence becoming a possible candidate for UNESCO civilisational heritage protection list. In his lifetime Plečnik’s architecture marked several of Central European cities significantly, in particular Ljubljana and Prague. Since the international positioning on the works of the 20th century is pretty much unclear at the moment, so is the process of recognising Plečnik's work, which was submitted for evaluation in 2015, including one work in Prague and a colleciton of works in Ljubljana.  

Regardless of the civilisational prospects of Plečnik’s nomination for UNESCO status, his entire Ljubljana work was declared cultural heritage and of national importance in 2009, and part of that heritage is Central Bežigrad Stadium, the construction of which spanned over the second half of the 1920s and into the 1930s.

1934 1923-gradnja-stadiona-bezigrad.jpg

central stadion.jpg

olimpija stadium.jpg

Moreover, in 2007 Ljubljana and Slovenia in general were suffering from the lack of a stadium that could host a major sports event and provide roofed tribunes for an adequate number of spectators. Providing the capital with such a venue was one of the 2006 local election campaign promises of Zoran Jankovič, Ljubljana Mayor since 2006.

In 2007 the city government of Ljubljana (MOL) found an interested investor for the reconstruction of Plečnik’s Stadium, a slot machine baron Joc Plečečnik, who also owned a gambling salon in Grosuplje and the Hotel Lev’s Casino until 2018, when they were sold to Austrian gambling giant Novomatic. According to Peter Rondaij’s open editorial for Dnevnik, Pečečnik’s interest in renovating the stadium was strongly related to his attempts at a Nevada (USA) non-restricted gambling licence, which would have been (and eventually was) granted to him on the condition of his general good track record that also involved a proof of active engagement in the field of culture.

Pečečnik’s original plan for the reconstruction of Plečnik’s stadium, designed by the South African Botta Management Architecture bureau

The winner of the public competition for the reconstruction of Plečnik’s Stadium 2009, designed by the German architectural studio GMP, was based on detailed urbanistic plans drawn-up by city Vice-Mayor Janez Koželj half a year later. The inspiration for the spatial planning seems to be heavily influenced by Pečečnik’s original plans for a skyscraper and a vast commercial area spreading deep underground. In the original plans five, not three, commercial buildings were intended by the northern wall of the stadium, currently hosting public gardens that have been in public use since the neighbourhood was built in the 1930s.

 In October 2007, Bežigrad Sports Park Ltd. was established with the main shareholder being Pečečnik’s GSA (59%), the City Government of Ljubljana (28%) and Slovenian Olympic Committee (13%), the latter two contributing their shares in land. The property was immediately closed to the public using a construction fence and the project seemed to have proceeded without much need for either transparency or participation on the side of the public. Starting immediately after the fencing of the premises, citizens living nearby could only observe how the first thing to happen behind closed walls in December 2007 was the removal of floodlights and grass surface altogether, along with the drainage system. Part of a southern wall was demolished so that heavy trucks could get in and out. At the beginning of 2008, local residents also reported that all copper gutters and drain pipes has been removed from the gloriette, which was also reportedly deprived of its electric installations and then left with windows and doors open, which was done, according to speculation of the locals, to let vandals in so that they could destroy what the weather and time would not. According to Rondaij, this approach isn’t new. With “self-demolition” of protected buildings investors can clear a prime location for any development they want.

A hole blasted into a cultural monument of national importance, a status retroactively granted by the Institute of the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia. Photo: Neža Loštrek
The South-Eastern corner gate, now with added litter and toilet smells Photo: Neža Loštrek

Meanwhile, in March 2008 an agreement was signed for another sports centre in a much more appropriate location for hosting masses of sports fans and concert goers. Right next to the highway ring-road of Ljubljana, a stadium and another roofed hall has already been completed and pretty much functional since 2010 in Stožice. With these facilities in place, the urgent need for a sports centre ceased to exist and the arguments for another such complex in the downtown area of a “green” capital that aims to replace dirty traffic with bicycle lanes and trees doesn’t seem to hold much water. Especially since this concrete moneymaking monster with several football field sized floors of parking lots is supposed to grow above and under a monument of protected cultural heritage.

The whole process seems to have taken a few shortcuts, one of them being the circumvention of the affected public, in particular the Fond community dwellers, who were left out of all discussions. In 2009 new spatial plans were shown to them which is how they learned that they would lose their gardens and views. The city government gave up the land as its 29% investment in Bežigrad Sports Centre Ltd. It was only from these plans, drawn up without alerting the general public, that one resident even found out that her house was set for demolition (source).

Public gardens by the northern stadium wall. Photo: Neža Loštrek

How a polarising project like this can continue to survive into the present is a mindboggling question.  One of the explanations worth mentioning has been explored in detail in a graduation thesis, written by Danaja Visković Rojs. In short, the thesis contextualises the problem into the weak political culture of transitional societies, in which representatives lack the understanding of the nature of legitimacy of their governing jobs. Public participation in important decision-making processes, such as spatial planning, is a fundamental ingredient of democratic societies, something leaders of countries in transition to democracy find difficult to understand, instead taking their role of decision-makers as absolute. In return they lose the legitimacy of their political leadership, which they tend to compensate for with proofs of legality, exacerbating the conflict further.

In 2010 Zoran Jankovič, the Mayor of Ljubljana explained to Delo why the project continues to persis: while the city government contributed only land and wouldn’t lose anything by the contract ending, Joc Pečečnik invested money and would therefore lose €15 million if the project didn’t get through, which wouldn’t be fair to him. Which method of accounting brought Pečečnik to this number, Mayor Jankovič did not explain. The list of maintenance costs according to the official project’s website amounts to only €77,500. Yet the Mayor of Ljubljana seems to have a greater understanding for the interests of the city’s business partner, by now a “small king” of Las Vegas, rather than for the citizens who elected him.

Not surprisingly, in his interview for Delo Joc Pečečnik expressed great satisfaction with the city government’s collaboration, saying he has “no complaints” whatsoever. His take on Fond’s community protests, that are delaying the construction of the stadium, is simplistically legalistic with a neo-liberal newspeak definition of “public interest”: nobody has the right to interfere with his private property and it is the state’s duty to “protect the entrepreneur” and “allow him to create jobs and added value”. If someone out there wishes to use the stadium for “their own personal interest and (use it to) grow lettuce”, he has already offered to “buy his share for a very reasonable price”.

The city government and the Ministry of Culture told 24UR that they do not have the money to buy Pečečnik’s share. But do they even need to? They can simply leave the project and allow the lettuce continue to grow.

24 Feb 2019, 15:42 PM

This week’s photo is a shot of Ljubljana’s Triple Bridge (Tromostovje) from an usual angle, showing off some familiar elements of Plečnik’s work in the city that you can see echoed in many other of its structures.

It comes from the lens of Gordana Grlič, a professional photographer who works out of Photo Pauli, on Trubarjeva cesta, and whose current projects include documenting everyday life on the most colourful street in the city.

05 Jan 2019, 10:06 AM

STA, 4 January 2019 - Joc Pečečnik, the driving force behind the project to revamp a rundown Ljubljana sports stadium designed by Slovenia's best known architect Jože Plečnik, has not given up on the project just yet. After withdrawing a request for an environmental consent, he has filed for an integral construction permit, which is to speed up the project.

Although opponents of the project declared it dead and buried yesterday when it transpired that the investor, Pečečnik's Bežigrad Sports Park (BŠP), had withdrawn the request for the environmental consent, it seems that Pečečnik has only taken a new path to implement his plan.

Rather than pushing for the environmental consent as a precondition for a building permit, he has decided to request the integral construction permit under new legislation.

The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning confirmed for the STA that the BŠP had filed the request on 20 December in line with the amended construction legislation that stepped into force last year.

The procedure for integral construction permit combines the procedures of the environmental impact assessment and the issuing of the construction permit. The new legislation gives the ministry full power to decide on projects, completely leaving out the Environment Agency.

The procedure must also not take more than five months, not counting the period of public debate.

Neither Pečečnik nor the Slovenian Olympic Committee, which is involved in the project along with the Ljubljana municipality, would comment on the issue today.

The news first broke as the civil initiative that has been campaigning for the preservation of Plečnik's stadium in its original form announced on Thursday that the investor had withdrawn its request for the environmental consent, a precondition for a building permit.

The initiative welcomed the decision, labelling the move a sign that the project is now dead and buried.

According to the initiative, the investor too must have realised that the project was unacceptable because it would have caused environmental damage as well as destroy Plečnik's heritage. Pečečnik, the main investor, was unavailable for comment today.

But the head of the Olympic Committee, Bogdan Gabrovec, told the newspaper Delo last December that the renovation of the Plečnik stadium was a priority for him.

"It's a disgrace for all, for cultural heritage, the state and the city. The ten-year agony over construction plans, which are now in line with all environmental standards, has become harmful. This story must be solved one way or another in this term," he said in an interview.

If the project fell through, the Olympic Committee would lose some EUR 2.5m, which would plunge it into the red and that would be a big obstacle when applying to calls for applications, he said.

Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković told the press today he was convinced that Pečečnik was sticking with the project and that the civil initiative opposing the project had jumped to conclusions yesterday.

04 Jan 2019, 13:56 PM

STA, 3 January 2019 - A project to revamp a rundown sports stadium in Ljubljana (Centralni stadion Bežigrad) that was designed by Slovenia's best known architect Jože Plečnik appears to be dead after the investor pulled out following more than a decade of tug-of-war with the opponents of the project.

The Bežigrad Sports Park (BŠP) company, the special purpose vehicle established by one of the wealthiest Slovenians, Joc Pečečnik, in cooperation with the Ljubljana city authorities and the Slovenian Olympic Committee, has withdrawn its request for the environmental consent for the renovation, the Environment Agency has confirmed for the STA.

According to the Environment Agency, the investor requested to be removed from procedure on 21 December. The procedure was stopped on 28 December giving all the parties 15 days to appeal the decision, the agency added.

The news first broke as the civil initiative that has been campaigning for the preservation of Plečnik's stadium in its original form announced on Thursday that the investor had withdrawn its request for the environmental consent, a precondition for a building permit.

The initiative welcomed the decision, labelling the move a sign that the project is now dead and buried.

According to the initiative, the investor too must have realised that the project was unacceptable because it would have caused environmental damage as well as destroy Plečnik's heritage. Pečečnik, the main investor, was unavailable for comment today.

The group hopes this will pave the way for a new solution that would restore the stadium to its original form, so it could be used for recreational sports and various events.

The stadium in the Ljubljana Bežigrad borough was designed by Jože Plečnik (1872-1957) in 1923. Built in several phases, its covered landmark VIP box was not added until 1935.

It was closed down for renovation in 2008, about the same time when the Stožice sports complex, also featuring a new stadium, was built on the outskirts of Ljubljana.

The investors had to fight off opposition from the get go, with the latest blow coming in late 2017, when the Environment Ministry again retracted the environmental consent, previously granted by the Environment Agency, upon an appeal by the civil initiative.

15 Oct 2018, 12:50 PM

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