National and University Library

Jože Plečnik’s grandest monument in central Ljubljana is the National and University Library, locally referred to as NUK – an initialism of Narodna in univerzitetna knjižnica. Plečnik joined the project in 1930, when it was already underway conceptually.

The site for the future library was the old Prince Mansion, which had been destroyed by an 1895 earthquake that ruined some 15% of Ljubljana’s buildings. Plečnik saw the library as a temple to learning and human wisdom, essential for the healthy development of his people and for their independence.

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While waiting for funding from Belgrade, Plečnik put his plans on display in the summer of 1933. These plans were seen by architect Ivan Vurnik, who dismissed them as “Baroque” and developed a more Functionalist counter-design. Plečnik’s design won and his commission held, but this was the clearest example of their professional rivalry.

Plečnik placed the library at an angle to the 18th-century buildings around it. It stands out in its red brick, windows struck out at angles from the façade. Its atrium, columned and lined in reflective black stone, opens into the airy bright verticality of the main reading room, dressed in light-colored wood and illuminated by enormous windows at either end.

To access the reading room inside, you must climb a staircase lined with black stone. With this, Plečnik wanted to convey the idea that the library allows you to emerge from the darkness of ignorance into the light of knowledge that shines through huge windows in the upper floor reading room.

Sights along the way to NUK:

  • Križanke,
  • City Museum of Ljubljana.

Directions to National and University Library

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