Zale Funeral Oratory Photo by: Damjan Gale / Damjan Gale archive

Zale Funeral Oratory
Photo by: Damjan Gale / Damjan Gale archive

The architect Jože Plečnik is of course of interest at any time, and not only on the occasion of a special anniversary, although this year we are commemorating 60 years from his death and 145 from his birth. That is why the present issue of Piranesi also covers a few topics directly related to the master. In the first place we feature his own house, which was recently subject to renovation and restoration. Its entrance area has been subtly transformed into an information centre, serving not only the house itself, but the whole of Plečnik’s Ljubljana which will hopefully soon appear on the UNESCO Register of World Heritage. The authors of the renovation have received several awards for the project, among them the Piranesi award, as well as the Plečnik award. In the second half of the magazine the reader will find two book reviews. One covering a monograph on Plečnik House, giving a detailed description of the development and history of interventions on the property, and the other on a new book on Plečnik by Noah Charney, an American art historian who thus far is not so well known in this field, although he has been living in Slovenia for a number of years. He provides a new look at Plečnik, slightly different from those we are familiar with, when he claims, among other things, that the architect applied Semper’s theory of textile cladding, and thus gradually transformed his own works into the national architectural style of the time.

In the book Symbols in Plečnik’s Architecture, Andrej Hrausky focuses on the works realised in Ljubljana between 1921 and 1957, searching for the symbolic meaning of these. He provides a detailed description of selected works and unveils hidden symbols that Plečnik used for his designs. As such, even the lay public can have a better idea about what is hidden behind the classical forms of Plečnik’s architecture.

Let me mention another event among those related to Plečnik this year: the exhibition and catalogue by architect Damjan Gale, who photographed details of Plečnik’s columns in the 1980’s, thus also contributing to the international recognisability of the architect. First in 1982 with an independent exhibition in La Diaframma, a Milan gallery for art photography, and a few years later within the scope of an exhibition held in Paris, and curated by Francois Burkhardt, Boris Podrecca, Damjan Prelovšek and Lojze Gostiša, with shows that carried Plečnik’s name outside the borders of Slovenia for the first time.

Coming back to the content of the present issue, the title theme should be stressed again. This is the rather demolished Rafut Villa in Nova Gorica, a work by the architect Anton Laščak that was completed in 1915. Laščak built this for his own use, during his very successful career abroad. He was active in Turkey, but above all in Egypt, where he created some of the most recognisable buildings of the early 20th century. In Slovenia, however, he was not so well known, a status that continued until recently. Indeed, it was only this year that the Outsider magazine published a detailed article about his work and architecture in Egypt, with a large retrospective exhibition expected in the near future. Similar stories of architects whom we have never really taken under our wing, because their primary work was carried out abroad, can be found elsewhere, with perhaps the most known being Viktor Sulčič and his work in Argentina. However, at least his story was presented several years ago, with an exhibition and a catalogue.

In the interview with the architect Jurij Kobe we present an overview of his architectural works, his projects on bridges, and relationship with sketching and painting. With him we touch upon the Piran Days of Architecture, which he helped to found, and which gave rise to Piranesi magazine. And since we are already speaking of anniversaries, let’s note that this year we celebrate the 35th of the Piran Days of Architecture and the 25th of Piranesi.

However, this issue of Piranesi is not entirely devoted to anniversaries. It also covers contemporary architectural production in Central European countries, from Slovenia to Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Let me mention but one small example, a chapel in Vorarlberg, Austria. In this the author Bernard Bader again demonstrates how to produce architecture which is responsible towards the environment and local context. The newly-built wooden chapel works in the space as if it had been there for centuries.