Vurnik’s House

Exploring Ljubljana, you will constantly come across the name Jože Plečnik. He was the genius loci of the city, Slovenia’s greatest artist, and he rightly won all the major city architectural commissions. But he did have a sort of rival – a solid but unspectacular architect named Ivan Vurnik, who is best known for one striking building.

Vurnik had studied under the Viennese architects but began to work in his homeland in 1912. He was stimulated by the wave of nationalism, which took the form of a renewed interest in traditional artworks and folk craft styles. His approach focused on ornamentalism: a decorative approach in which the architectural form is less relevant than the ornaments that decorate it.

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In 1919, Vurnik established the department of architecture within the Technical Faculty of the new University of Ljubljana. When Fabiani declined the post of professor of architecture, preferring to take a position near his birthplace in Gorizia, Plečnik accepted, returning home after decades working in Vienna and Prague.

So, we have Vurnik to thank for Plečnik’s return to Ljubljana. But jealousy soon kicked in. Vurnik recognized that he was not at Plečnik’s level, but sought excuses for Plečnik winning all the choicest commissions. When Plečnik was named architect of the planned National and University Library, Vurnik published a rival plan that he argued was far better than Plečnik’s.

It does not take an expert critic to see that Vurnik is nowhere near Plečnik’s genius, yet his Vurnik House is charming. It was designed in 1921 as a bank plus apartment complex. Most striking is its lavish color scheme designed by Vurnik’s wife Helena – both the painted façade against a salmon pink ground, and the red, white, and blue interior of the bank.

Sights along the way:

  • Križanke,
  • City Museum of Ljubljana,
  • National and University Library,
  • Kongresni trg,
  • Prešernov trg,
  • Tromostovje,
  • Prešeren Monument.

Directions to Vurnik’s House

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Igor Andjelić, photographerComing soon.