Art Nouveau Ljubljana

At the turn of the 20th century, a new artistic style contributed significantly to the appearance of a number of European cities. In Ljubljana, it developed under the influence of the Viennese Secession and found expression mainly in architecture.

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Hauptmann House in Prešeren Square © D. Wedam

Hauptmann House in Prešeren Square

Hauptmann House was built in 1873. It was one of the city's few buildings to survive the great earthquake of 1895 almost unharmed. Later it was bought by the local paint merchant Adolf Hauptmann, who commissioned the architect Ciril Metod Koch to redesign house in the Viennese Secession style, fashionable at the time.

The German Theatre, today The Slovenian National Drama Theatre of Ljubljana © D. Mladenovič, Mostphotos

The German Theatre, today The Slovenian National Drama Theatre of Ljubljana

The German Theatre was constructed between 1909 and 1911 to a design by the Viennese architect Alexander Graf. Its interior is richly decorated, the vestibule in the neoclassical style. The theatre's exterior is adorned with Art Nouveau ornaments. The entrance is surmounted by a balcony supported by columns.

People's Loan Bank building © G. Murn

People's Loan Bank building

The People's Loan Bank building, located at No. 4 Miklošičeva ulica street, was designed by the architect Josip Vancaš in 1907. The roof is topped by two sitting barefoot female figures with bare shoulders holding a pouch, a bee-hive and a couple of shields bearing the images of a bee and an ant, the symbols of frugality, diligence and financial wealth.

Vurnik House, former Cooperative Business Bank © G. Murn

Vurnik House, former Cooperative Business Bank

Vurnik house or the Cooperative Business Bank building, located in the Miklošičeva ulica street, is one of Ljubljana's most famous buildings. Despite being situated in a brightly coloured Art Nouveau quarter, its richly decorated fasade makes it stand out from the surrounding buildings. Built in 1921 to a design by the architect Ivan Vurnik, it is considered to be one of the finest examples of Slovenian national style architecture.

Urbanc House © D. Wedam

Urbanc House

Ljubljana's oldest department store in Urbanc House (Urbančeva hiša) was commissioned by the local merchant Feliks Urbanc in 1902 and designed by the Graz-based architect Friedrich Sigismundt. The building's entrance is enhanced by a semicircular canopy in the shape of a flat open, fan-like petal cluster made from glass and wrought iron. On top of the building, above the front façade, there is a neo-Baroque statue of Mercury, the god of commerce and protector of merchants.

Dragon Bridge © B. Jakše & S. Jeršič

Dragon Bridge

The attraction of the dragons aside, the bridge is a unique creation considered to be an extraordinary piece of technical heritage and a superb example of Art Nouveau architecture. Constructed between 1900 and 1901, it was Ljubljana's first reinforced concrete structure and one of the largest bridges of its kind to be built in Europe.

Former Miklavc Department Store © D. Mladenovič, Mostphotos

Former Miklavc Department Store

Miklavc Department Store was rebuilt from an original Baroque house in 1914, on commission from Franc Drofenig, a merchant. Its prefabricated modern façade, the first of the kind in Ljubljana, is considered to be one of the best examples of successful integration of a modern style into the city's historical architecture. The plans for the rebuilding were drawn up by the architect Karl Brünnler.

Grand hotel Union © G. Murn

Grand hotel Union

The Grand hotel Union is Ljubljana's first modern hotel. At the time it was built it was the city's largest building boasting the biggest function hall in the Balkans, which was, due to its complex iron roof structure, considered to be a great technological achievement. The hotel, measuring almost 100 metres long, was built between 1903 and 1905 after designs by Josip Vancaš.

Municipal Savings Bank building © D. Mladenovič, Mostphotos

Municipal Savings Bank building

The most outstanding element on the Municipal Savings Bank's façade is the wrought-iron and glass canopy shaped in the form of the petals of a wide open flower, a more modest version of the canopy above the entrance to Urbanc House (Urbančeva hiša). The building also boasts Ljubljana's only signboard surviving from the Art Nouveau period. The façade is adorned with allegorical statues of Commerce and Production.

Krisper House © G. Murn

Krisper House

Krisper House's façade, designed in a graceful Art Nouveau style inspired by contemporary Viennese architecture, is decorated with stylised floral ornaments. According to Maks Fabiani, floral ornamentation, which is not typical of his style, was used at the express wish of the client. The square-facing corner of the house is enhanced by a turreted balcony, characteristic also of the square's other buildings.

Bamberg House © M. Kambič

Bamberg House

Bamberg House's exterior was deliberately designed by Maks Fabiani in a modernist style inspired by the local tradition of late-Baroque patrician palaces. The ceramic reliefs of beardy men attached to the façade below the roofing were created by the Austrian sculptor and ceramic artist Hugo Franz Kirsch. They are believed to depict people related to the printing trade.

Hribar House © D. Wedam

Hribar House

Hribar House was designed by the architect Maks Fabiani on commission from Ivan Hribar, the then mayor of Ljubljana. Its outside is characterised by an undulating façade with three prominent bay windows. The façade is decorated with a grid of squares enlivened by grooves (cannelures) and animal heads. The little lion heads built into the façade above the main windows were inspired by classical models.

By welcoming Art Nouveau, the bourgeoisie, which was the main consumer of the new art, tried to attain a higher position on the social ladder. It tried to establish its own aesthetic views instead of being a mere follower of the outdated styles preferred by aristocracy. The architects of the period utilized the advantages of the new industrial serial production and new materials such as iron, steel, glass and reinforced concrete. Their inspiration was coming from the animal and plant worlds, folklore, exotic cultures and religions, geometric forms, etc.

Ljubljana's Art Nouveau buildings were mostly designed by local architects, who contributed to national awakening in Slovenia just like their Hungarian, Scottish, Catalan, Finnish, and other counterparts did in their own countries.

Ljubljana's earliest significant Art Nouveau creation was the Dragon Bridge, built in 1901. The bulk of the city's Art Nouveau buildings were constructed during the first decade of the 20th century along the Miklošičeva ulica street, which connects the old city centre with Ljubljana Railway Station. Several examples of Art Nouveau architecture can also be found in Ljubljana's surrounding areas.

Architect Maks Fabiani in Ljubljana

Maks Fabiani's rich legacy makes him one of the most important Central European architects of the turn of the 20th century. Maks Fabiani, a collaborator of the Viennese architect Otto Wagner, was one of the originators and, in the period 1903–1904, active members of the Austrian Art Nouveau movement, referred to as the Viennese Secession. Due to his active role in the circle of Viennese artists and the famous Art Nouveau buildings he designed in Vienna, Ljubljana, Gorizia, and Trieste in the period between 1899 and 1909, Fabiani contributed to the establishment of the principles of modern architecture. Among other things, he created a new urban development plan for Ljubljana after the devastating earthquake of 1895.

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