Catalogue Universum Plečnik: Between Workshop and Myth

16. 10. 2023


Catalogue Universum Plečnik: Between Workshop and Myth

16. 10. 2023

The Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO) is excited to announce the release of the extended catalogue accompanying the recently concluded exhibition Universum Plečnik: Between Workshop and Myth.


The book elaborates on the architect’s approaches to designing public space and focuses on the complex relationship between the teacher and his students to reflect on certain aspects of Plečnik’s rich legacy that were previously only rarely discussed. Archival plans, sketches, and photographs reveal the architect’s legacy of communal spaces that unfolds as a complex and holistic vision of a connected world.


Edited by Tomaž Štoka with Miloš Kosec, Natalija Lapajne, and Bogo Zupančič, Universum Plečnik expands on the articulation of Plečnik’s heritage and highlights the lasting relevance of his designs, thereby opening the doors for further exploration of new sources. The book presents essays by members of the editorial board and exhibition designers Ana Kreč, Jure Hrovat, Anja Delbello, and Aljaž Vesel, the latter two contributed also as catalogue designers, as well as a foreword by Acting Director General of the Directorate for Cultural Heritage Špela Spanžel. In their reflections, the authors discuss different aspects of public space, the course of the collective process that led to the creation of Plečnik’s designs after World War I, Plečnik’s school, and the translation of the architect’s urban approaches into the exhibition medium.


With its contents and design, the catalogue brings a contemporary reading of Plečnik’s legacy, showing how a rich and comprehensive understanding of existing public space can grow out of a series of carefully thought-out approaches, focusing in particular on the architect’s interventions in Ljubljana. Plečnik’s Ljubljana is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as an exceptional example of human-scale public space design, and the catalogue also expounds on the importance of such an achievement, stressing that in the fragmented and privatized world of the 21st century we now, more than ever, need to be aware of the importance of preserving this world heritage, ensuring that it remains an open and inclusive public space accessible to all. The headings Plurality of Scale, Recollection of Fragments, The Word and the Syntax, Topography, and The State and the City explore the central attributes of Plečnik’s approaches: the way he gradually built the city with limited means, interpreting the remains of the past and combining them into new ensembles rich in meaning and function, and, most importantly, designed to human scale. They are accompanied by archive materials and contemporary photographs by Czech architectural historian Adam Štěch.


“Walking through his designs is like reading a manifesto for the alternative community space; the fact that they were not the result of one man’s work but a collective effort that involved numerous individuals who worked with the architect in different ways and occasionally also lent a transformative hand, makes this historic manifesto a lively and dynamic case study for our present-day situation as well.”(Miloš Kosec)

The chapter The Common Roof presents Plečnik’s and his students’ materials from the MAO collection. More or less previously unseen plans reveal a world full of loyalty, dissent, adherence, and explorations of generations of students who evolved into architects by their teacher’s side. The selection also reveals the vitality of Plečnik’s school in the teacher’s late period – during and after World War II – which has long wrongly been considered the time of his waning creative power.


Today, we read Plečnik’s architecture as a model of human-centred, sustainable, and inclusive public space. But this architectural heritage is increasingly overshadowed by the architect’s commodified personality and the myths that have been spun around him. Now he has also become a tourist icon and indeed a brand. What’s more, in recent years we have witnessed myriad new cases of misuse or poor renovation, even destruction of the legacy of the architect, who chose his epitaph on the façade of Križanke to read: “You are transient, it is your work that you will be remembered for.” To go back to understanding, protecting, and learning from Plečnik’s works, we should first lay to rest the myths surrounding his personality.




Editorial board: Tomaž Štoka (editor-in-chief), Miloš Kosec, Natalija Lapajne, Bogo Zupančič

Contributors: Tomaž Štoka, Miloš Kosec, Bogo Zupančič, Ana Kreč, Jure Hrovat, Anja Delbello, Aljaž Vesel

Graphic design AA – Anja Delbello, Aljaž Vesel

Exhibition design: svet vmes – Ana Kreč, Jure Hrovat, Marko Kavčič, Amadej Mravlak
: Adam Štěch

Photographs of the exhibition and catalogue photos: Klemen Ilovar

Publisher: Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO), Ljubljana 2023, 292 pp., Slovenian and English.


For more on the exhibition Universum Plečnik: Between Workshop and Myth see:

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