AN URBAN ARMATURE
It was Leon Krier who introduced me to the work of Josef Ple. cnik in the early 1980s, writes Edward Jones - appropriately, for Krier and Ple. cnik share a common pedigree. Both are Mannerists and both share an enthusiasm for the city as it might have been; a city anticipated by Ple. cnik's interventions in Ljubljana and a city imagined by Krier in his drawings.
Once remote, Ljubljana is now as accessible as anywhere else in Europe, courtesy of easyJet. On the way into the city, the taxi driver, with great enthusiasm, named all Ple. cnik's works there - a reminder that, in a city of this size, it is possible for an architect to have a lasting place in the memories and affections of its people (von Klenze in Munich, Schattner in Eichstätt, Gaudì in Barcelona, Ple. cnik in Ljubljana).
A fi rst and lasting impression of Ljubljana is the gentle formality of the river Ljublijanica. This must be the narrowest river in any capital city, but one of the most architecturally considered. As has been pointed out, this is Ple. cnik's Canale Grande, formed by his steps, bridges, walls, obelisks, banks of willow trees and open colonnades, all concluding with the monumental sluice gates announcing the river's exit from the city. It is therefore a surprise to find that Plecnik's first impulse was to bury the river in a culvert and to reclaim the land for the city, as had been the case in Vienna with the River Wien.
Although crowned by the castle and the promontory above, the bend of the river acts as a space of reference to the city. Ple. cnik understood this, and with a series of discontinuous but complete architectural pieces he achieved an urban armature of great distinction.
This is not a homogenising project but a fragmentary one, which allows other voices from the past to be heard while anticipating future contributions.
There are very few cities that made lasting improvements to their fabric in the middle of the 20th century. When most of Europe was making plans for the destruction of cities, either by war or by the reconstruction afterwards, Ljubljana - through the combined energies of Ple. cnik and his circle - stands almost alone as a place that was enriched during this dark period.
Edward Jones is a partner in Dixon Jones