Bata department store in Ljubljana (now Nama). Photo montage of new building for publication in newspapers in 1937, architect Franjo Lušičić, 1937. Source: Historical Archives Ljubljana

Bata department store in Ljubljana (now Nama). Photo montage of new building for publication in newspapers in 1937, architect Franjo Lušičić, 1937.
Source: Historical Archives Ljubljana

Following the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy after World War I, in addition to Austria, Hungary and the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, Czechoslovakia was also created and soon became a major economic power, and one of the more advanced and successful European countries. In this period that was favourable to the development of the economy, an interesting story was being written that soon grew from a local to a global bestseller. All this owing to the vision, willpower, determination and ingenuity of Tomaš Bata, who managed to create a globally visible shoe brand in his relatively short life. In Zlin, a town on the border between Moravia and Slovakia, he set up his first shoe factory in 1894, and with time accumulated enough funds and capital – predominantly through supplying footwear to the Austro-Hungarian Army – to build factories and settlements for workers in the renewed economic boom of the 1920s and 1930s, and added cultural and infrastructural facilities to them. Contemporary industrial towns were thus created, embedded into greenery, which later served as models for some further residential complexes around the world. The one closest to us is in Borovo, near Vukovar in Croatia, where in addition to the factory residential houses were also constructed for workers.

After the tragic death of Tomaš Bata his empire was divided among the family members, and during the time of German occupation it continued operating in Canada, Brazil and India under the management of his son Tomaš Jan Bata. Under Communist rule after World War II, the entire complex was nationalised, and the town of Zlin renamed Gottwaldov; its original name was reinstated only after the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

Vladimir Šlapeta contributed two comprehensive articles on this story; on the phenomenon of Bata and Zlin, as well as on the memorial pavilion dedicated to Tomaš Bata (Tomas Bata Memorial), which the architect František Lýdie Gahura conceived and designed as a contemporary functionalist glass cube, exhibiting the plane with which Bata visited his factories and with which he had a fatal accident in 1932. Linked to this topic is the presentation of the Bata department store that we know today as Nama, which was built in Ljubljana towards the end of the 1930s. The building was one of the largest department stores in Bata’s shoemaking empire, conceived in the distinctive modernist style with horizontal glazing of the top floors and large display windows on the ground floor. The task of designing the project of the new department store in Ljubljana was entrusted to the Croatian architect Franjo Lušičić, who was employed as an architect in Borovo.

In the texts on Zlin and Bata we can find another interesting piece of information that connects Slovenia and Czechia, as the architect Gahura was one of Plečnik’s students in Prague during 1914-1917. In 1938, when Gahura returned from his visit to Ljubljana he gave a lecture on Professor Plečnik in which he thanked him for his attitude towards students, and his reflections on architecture.

The interview with the architect Marko Mušič supplements the series of interviews with Slovene architects so far. It came about in a time of the re-evaluation of the achievements of Yugoslav architecture. Specifically, the exhibition Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980 (H konkretni/betonski utopiji: arhitektura v Jugoslaviji 1948–1980) in the New York MoMA in 2018. This emphasised the high value of Yugoslav modernist architecture, and among the featured works was the project for a Memorial and Cultural Centre in Kolašin in Montenegro, by Marko Mušič. A masterpiece in addition to which Mušič also conceived the Cultural Centre (the House of Revolution) in Nikšić and the panoramic restaurant on Mount Lovćen in Montenegro; the University Centre in Skopje, the Cultural Centre in Bitola (both in North Macedonia); and the Memorial and Cultural Centre in Šamac in Republika Srpska (previously Bosanski Šamac). He was commissioned to design all these projects in the 1970s after some resounding victories in Yugoslav competitions. In Slovenia he is best known for his realisation of the Church of the Incarnation of Christ in Dravlje and the new part of the Žale central cemetery, called Nove Žale, both in Ljubljana. Marko Mušič is all too often overlooked, although with his distinct authorial architectural oeuvre he can be ranked among the top Yugoslav and Slovene architects.

From the contemporary Slovene architectural production, two works of one of the most renowned architectural offices, Bevk Perovič Architects, are presented in the new issue of the Piranesi magazine. The first of them is the renovation of former casemates in Wiener Neustadt in Austria and the second the new mosque in Ljubljana. The latter, in particular, demonstrates that today, too, it is possible to create an exceptional contemporary sacral space of Islamic architecture, and that with it both Ljubljana and Slovenia have opened up to people of another faith and enabled the Muslim community to build an Islamic religious and cultural centre after quite a long time. A centre which we are confident will connect people and not divide them.

In continuation, two projects by the architectural office ATELIERarhitekti are presented. The first, the renovation of the Main Square in Novo Mesto, showcases how important is the renovation of public urban spaces, not only in terms of architecture, but also in spatial terms, in terms of substance and sustainability, as such renovations revive city centres. In their smaller projects of the renovation of the Churchwarden’s House and the setting up of the memorial exhibition at Sveti Urh near Ljubljana we can discern the uncovering and dusting off of our recent history, and learn how we can preserve the truth about time and space with reserve, poise and respect.