Sunday, 17 November 2013

Jože Plečnik: Poet of Concrete

Ljubljana’s salient architectural features were the work of Jože Plečnik, the so-called ‘poet of concrete’, who’d developed his austere tastes in Vienna and Prague long before communism took hold in Yugoslavia. As well as bringing the Ljubljanica river under control by cordoning it with terraces, he’d built the Cobblers’ and Triple bridges, the colonnaded fish market, several churches, a stadium, the chamber of commerce, a gymnasium, the National and University Library and a cemetery. According to a tourist leaflet, Ljubljanans regarded him as their Haussmann, a visionary who transformed a provincial backwater into an imperious regional capital. Fortunately, Plečnik himself had had other ideas. Rather than altering the entire geometry of Ljubljana by driving grand, Parisian-style boulevards through the centre, he had built into the existing fabric of the city, more often ornamenting than obliterating. You couldn’t miss his stark additions to the Art Nouveau fripperies left behind by the Austro-Hungarians, but while the Triple Bridge formed the centre piece of the riverfront districts he refashioned, the cobbled streets and cottage-like houses on the left bank remained, and weeping willows draped the terraces with which he’d straightened the Ljubljanica.
Tom Phillips 2013

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