The look of Slovenian cities and towns has been defined by various periods, going back as far as antiquity. Some of the creators include Maks Fabiani, the personal advisor of Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, who also worked with Otto Wagner, and Jože Plečnik, who worked in Vienna, Prague, and in Ljubljana.
From antique villas to a crystal palace
Slovenian towns first received their urban appearance two millennia ago as the ancient Romans arrived. In medieval times, these towns spread and changed, and much evidence of this can still be found if you explore old town centres. Technical innovations enabled the construction of the Ljubljana Nebotičnik, which was the tallest building in Central Europe in 1933. After World War II, public spaces were transformed by numerous modern buildings, new settlements and towns, and the 21st century brought about architectural forms that sometimes dominate the function.
This student of Otto Wagner designed the Church of the Holy Spirit in Vienna, the first reinforced concrete church in Europe, and in Prague he oversaw the comprehensive renovation of Prague Castle. In 1921, he moved to Ljubljana, which he changed into a modern capital city with urban planning and architectural projects. The most important Slovenian architect had his own unique language, based on classicism, and created masterpieces, such as the National University Library (NUK), the Žale Cemetery, the Three Bridges, Ljubljana marketplace and various churches.
Maks Fabiani was one of the geniuses of Slovenian architecture. As a student in 1895, he drew up an urban planning design for Ljubljana. In Vienna, he worked with Otto Wagner, he was a professor at the University of Technology, and the personal advisor to Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne, and it was in Vienna that he designed the famous buildings Artaria, Urania, and the Palmers Palace. In Ljubljana, you can find his various office and residential buildings and Prešeren Square, which has a monument to the greatest Slovenian poet. After World War I, he made plans for the renovation of 92 municipalities in the Gorica, Posočje, and Karst regions. One of his more romantic works is the renovation of the picturesque town of Štanjel.
A student of Jože Plečnik and Le Corbusier, he is considered to be one of the major Slovenian architects of the 20th century. His famous teachers imparted to him local classicism and brutalism, which he then mixed with examples of folk, Scandinavian, and Japanese architecture. His most extremely complex work is the Republic Square in Ljubljana, which is an urban and architectural concept with highrises and the Cankarjev Dom cultural and convention centre. He made designs for the Gallery of Modern Art, residential buildings, and he prepared the urban plan for the new town of Nova Gorica.
Art Nouveau in Ljubljana
This period from the early 20th century, which advocated a deviation from classical rules and the use of new forms and techniques, resulted in some of the most beautiful buildings in Ljubljana. Most of them are in the city centre, near the Three Bridges and Prešeren Square. Here, you can find the narrow, painted Hauptman House and the incredible Urbanc House, which was the first department store in Ljubljana If you walk down Miklošičeva Street, you can discover more gems, such as the Grand Hotel Union and the Cooperative Economic Bank at number eight. The latter is an exceptional example of the Slovenian response to late Art Nouveau and is the work of Ivan and Helena Vurnik. In your quest for architectural gems, make sure not to overlook the Dragon Bridge built in 1901, which started a new, very aesthetic style.
One of the greatest architectural icons and symbols of progress in the Slovenian capital was built in 1933. Its height of 70 metres made it the tallest building in Central Europe and it remained such for a long time. Its architect, Vladimir Šubic, introduced such technical innovations, residential standards, and other ideas that Nebotičnik was also considered to be one of the greatest architectural projects in both Europe and the USA. Go up to its top floors and visit a restaurant, bar, and terrace, where you will experience an unforgettable view of Ljubljana and its surroundings.
Modern architecture 1945–1970
The greatest urban planning projects, which brought about significant changes in lifestyle, happened in the period from the end of World War II to the 1970s. Increased architectural production and urban planning which emphasised functionalism were facilitated by such architects as Edvard Ravnikar, Edo Mihevc, Oton Jugovec, Savin Sever, Milan Mihelič and others, who also gave us the new towns of Velenje and Nova Gorica.
Among the numerous buildings from this period are the Slovenian Parliament, the Gospodarsko Razstavišče Exhibition Grounds in Ljubljana, and the Maribor Railway Station. An interesting example of an office and residential building is the Kozolec, which was inspired by Le Corbusier’s Unité d'habitation, and an interesting example of a building complex are the terraced apartment buildings in Koseze.
From the 1990s to the 21st century
The architecture of the past few decades in Slovenia was marked with individual buildings that attract attention with their form, as well as the establishment of the bureaus of younger generations of creative minds. Explore the projects of the Sadar + Vuga Bureau, such as the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia, the glass annex to the National Gallery, the Vander Hotel, and the Stožice Football Stadium. The Dekleva Gregorič Bureau designed the dynamic Perovo area, the Ofis Bureau designed the Maribor Football Stadium, and Superform designed the Cerkvenjak Kindergarten, which is connected with nature. Take a look at Situla, the highest residential building in Slovenia, and the Crystal Palace, the highest office building. Finish your tour of the achievements of Slovenian architecture by treating yourself to some quality time at the Orhidelia Wellness Centre designed by the Enota Bureau.
The special features of Slovenian culture also include architectural elements in the mountains. In addition to mountain huts, you can also find bivouacs intended for emergency protection from bad weather conditions and for overnight stays. The bivouac under Mt. Grintovec, constructed by Miha Kajzelj at an elevation of 2070 m, is considered to be the most beautiful. There is also a similar bivouac under Mt. Skuta at a similar elevation; this bivouac was the result of a collaboration between the Ofis Bureau, Harvard students, and others. If you don’t want to climb a mountain you can see an unusual building from 1936 in the valley. BIVAK II is set up next to the Slovenian Alpine Museum and has been transformed into an escape room.
Open Houses of Slovenia
The achievements of Slovenian modern architecture can also be studied virtually. An extensive online library with attractive photographs shows about 400 buildings with a special emphasis on sustainable construction. Open Houses, which are a part of the international Open House Worldwide network, organise the OHS Festival, within which they enable a personal experience between operators and users in one hundred selected buildings around Slovenia. Any time during the year, you can turn to them to get a personalised tour of Slovenian architecture.
Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO)
This museum for architecture, urban planning, and industrial and graphic design houses over 100,000 different items. Its collection displays works by about one thousand prominent Slovenian designers from the 20th and the 21st centuries, and you can also find products made by designers such as Ron Arad and Konstantin Grcic. The Museum regularly organises interesting themed exhibitions, and when you visit, don’t miss the shop, which offers products by Slovenian designers. It is housed in the wonderful Renaissance Fužine Castle, surrounded by a park and the River Ljubljanica.
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Explore the residential and spatial culture of modern Slovenia, which has been significantly characterised by the dominant styles of the past.
On the path of the past and the future
Combine tours of architectural attractions with tasting culinary masterpieces, enjoying a classical concert, or seeing an exhibition and enjoying a wellness treatment.
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