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Josip Plečnik (1872–1957)

photo: Josip Plecnik (wikimedia.org)

This Slovenian architect and city planner and one of the most significant European architects of the first half of the 20th century greatly influenced the architecture of the Czech Republic.

Jožo Plečnik, known as Josip Plečnik in the CR, was born on 23 January 1872 in Ljubljana in Slovenia as the son of a cabinet maker. From 1888, he attended a technical secondary school in Graz, where he gained a scholarship and quality education in the field of joinery. In 1894 he left for Vienna, where he worked in a joining factory for two years. 

Although not having adequate education, he was admitted to the long-wished-for Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1894 and was taught by professor Otto Wagner. Not only did he gain knowledge about architecture but he also met new friends including architect Jan Kotěra. He completed his studies in 1897 by an urban reconstruction of the sea spa Schwellingen near the Haag, for which he was granted the Prix de Rome and subsequently a scholarship, which enabled him to spend two years studying in Italy and France. Since 1900, Plečnik designed and built many extraordinary villas and tenant houses all over Vienna. 

In 1910, he accepted Jan Kotěra’s invitation to come to Prague as professor of decorative architecture at Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design. His most significant contribution to Czech architecture was his work concerning Prague Castle. In 1920, he was appointed the head architect by the then president T. G. Masaryk. In the 1920s and 1930s, he designed several reconstructions at Prague Castle, which greatly changed the character of the interiors, courtyards and gardens. These changes include e.g. rebuilding of the first and third courtyard, the Peristyle by the Mathias’ Gate and New Royal Palace with president’s residential rooms.

In 1921, he became the Professor at the Technical School in Ljubljana. Nevertheless, he frequented Prague and worked relentlessly on the reconstruction of Prague Castle together with his student O. Rothmayer until 1934. Apart from Prague Castle, Plečnik also designed the well-known Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at Jiřího z Poděbrad Square (1928–32) and his modifications of Lány Chateau were implemented, too. He had an extraordinary feel for detail and mastered construction technologies. He designed buildings including interiors, furnishing, design as well as utility objects.

We can find many of his projects in his native Ljubljana, such as the Triple Bridge, the building of the National and University Library, the Ljubljanica Sluice Gate or the Flat Iron Building.

This year was proclaimed the Pavel Janák and Josip Plečnik Year as it marks the 130th and 140th anniversary of the artists’ birthdays. Their contribution to architecture is commemorated by a number of exhibitions, lectures and accompanying events throughout the year.
Author: Petra Hubálková
Added: 01.06.2012

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