National and University Library, Ljubljana, Source: Elekhh, Wikipedia, (CC BY SA-3.0)

Ljubljana landmarks inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list

Ljubljana landmarks inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list

Slovenia has now five sites on the World Heritage list along with four on the tentative list waiting for inclusion

Iconic Ljubljana architectural works designed by Jože Plečnik (1872-1957), including the Triple Bridge, Congress Square and Žale Cemetery, have been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Wednesday’s decision came during the 44th meeting of the 21-nation World Heritage Committee which saw new sites included and other, notably Liverpool, removed from the prestigious list.

Human-centered urban design

While Rome has its Bernini and Barcelona its Gaudi, Ljubljana prides itself on Plečnik. Lesser known than his world-famous counterparts, Jože Plečnik nevertheless left an indelible mark on the city he was born in.

Arguing for the Slovenian entry, the Heritage Committee said that the work the architect carried in Ljubljana between World War I and World War II was an example of a human-centered urban design that changed the city’s identity from a provincial city of the dissolved Austro-Hungarian Empire into the symbolic capital of the people of Slovenia.  

Jože Plečnik contributed to this transformation with his personal, profoundly human vision for the city, based on an architectural dialogue with the older city while meeting the needs of emerging modern 20th century society.

Plečnik’s human-scale urbanistic approach, which disregarded the predominant modernist principles of the time, embodied itself in a series of public spaces like Congress Square, Tivoli Park, Ljubljanica embankment, Triple Bridge, and public institutions (the National and University Library, Križanke Outdoor Theatre , Žale Cemetery) that the architect sensitively integrated into the pre-existing urban, natural and cultural context. The Heritage Committee called Plečnik’s legacy an exceptional case of creating public spaces, buildings and green areas according to the vision of a single architect within a limited time, the limited space of an existing city, and with relatively limited resources.

Who was Jože Plečnik 

Jože Plečnik was born in 1872 in Ljubljana. He attended the School of Arts and Crafts in Graz, and then enrolled at the Academy of Arts in Vienna, at the Department of Architecture, headed by prof. Otto Wagner. After completing his studies and staying in Italy for a while, he settled in Vienna for more than ten years. He first worked in Wagner’s studio, and then as a freelance architect.

Between 1911 and 1921 Plečnik lived in Prague, where he was a professor at the School of Arts and Crafts. In 1920 he was appointed architect of Prague Castle, and also accepted the position of professor at the newly established Faculty of Architecture in Ljubljana. Between 1921 and 1934 he travelled extensively between the two cities, overseeing the renovation of Prague Castle and creating iconic spaces and buildings in Ljubljana.

Plečnik’s activities also extended to other parts of his homeland and other republics of the former Yugoslavia. He died in 1957 at his home in Trnovo.

Fifth Slovenian inscription

In addition to Plečnik's works, Slovenia already has four other entries on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Two of them – Prehistoric pile dwellings at Ig and Idrija Mercury Mine, are cultural heritage sites, while Škocjan Caves and Ancient beech forests of Krokar and Snežnik–Ždrocle fall into the natural heritage category. Four other Slovenian sights are placed on the tentative list, waiting for eventual inclusion in the World Heritage list.  

The small Balkan country also has four traditional crafts and rites inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity: Bobbin lacemaking in Slovenia, Art of dry stone walling, Door-to-door rounds of Kurenti and Škofja Loka passion play.

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