Plečnik's National and University Library Plans and the Master's Notes Now Accessible at dLib.si

A result of the collaboration between the Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana, Plečnik House, and the National and University Library (NUK) in the Plečnik Year 2022 is now accessible to the general public. In the Digital Library of Slovenia, at dLib.si, we have published two fully digitalised collections of Plečnik's works; materials on the construction of Plečnik's NUK and 42 notebooks and sketchbooks done by the master architect.

Letter from Jože Plečnik to Jože Glonar, with an attached photograph of the unfinished University Library, 25 January 1941, the original is kept by NUK.
Letter from Jože Plečnik to Jože Glonar, with an attached photograph of the unfinished University Library, 25 January 1941, the original is kept by NUK. © NUK

Both institutions collaborated on two major projects during the Plečnik Year 2022: the National and University Library prepared an extensive exhibition on Plečnik’s planning of the library, while they also wanted to create a unique Plečnik notebook dedicated to the jubilee year.

For the exhibition Plečnik's Library: Created for All Times, they comprehensively reviewed and processed archival material related to the planning and construction of the library. Žiga Cerkvenik, the project leader for the exhibition, highlighted, "In addition to the extensive material we hold in the library about the construction of NUK, for the exhibition, we borrowed some key Plečnik plans from the MGML’s Plečnik Collection. Due to the fragility of mostly paper materials, we digitised the documents, and these digital copies are now available to the wider public. This provides insight into the library's construction, which is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of architect Jože Plečnik and one of the most important achievements in architecture of the last century in Slovenian territory."

The material on Plečnik’s National and University Library is accessible on dLib in the Plečnik’s Library collection

Plečnik consistently emphasised the importance of sketching, both as a means of recording fleeting ideas as well as sketching final solutions and details. In 2022, the architect’s incredible talent was condensed into the Plečnik Notebook, which is available for purchase. This notebook, a collaboration of NUK and the MGML, showcases the most beautiful and interesting Plečnik drawings, collected from his sketchbooks kept in the Plečnik House Collection. In addition, NUK also digitised 42 of Plečnik’s notebooks and sketchbooks, gathered in collaboration with the curator of the Plečnik Collection, Ana Porok. Regarding her involvement in the project, Porok highlighted, “Our main wish for the collaboration with NUK to digitise the Plečnik’s notebooks from our collection, was the intention to offer access to original Plečnik material for both experts and the general public. This makes the material continuously accessible for study and can also serve as inspiration for anyone who might be motivated to engage in their own creative pursuits.”

The digitised notebooks are accessible on dLib in the Plečnik’s Notebooks collection.

Plečnik's National and University Library

Plečnik published his vision for the library building as a temple dedicated to knowledge in 1930. He had to adjust his plans multiple times to align with financial constraints. On 5 October 1936, after many obstacles, construction finally began with the first shovel of soil turned by ban Natlačen. The construction was overseen by the constructor Matko Curk, and by the end of 1937, the building’s roof was topped. However, while interior works were completed in March 1941, there was still no interior furnishings at that time.

World War II engulfed Slovenian territories in April 1941, posing a threat to the nearly completed project of the University Library. The university leadership eventually succeeded in preventing the confiscation of the building, even though soldiers had already taken residence in parts of the structure. Thus, from the autumn of 1941, the library operated temporarily from a new location.

Plečnik conceived the building as a total work of art, as he meticulously designed everything from the door handle, chandeliers, tables, chairs, and other furnishings. The central idea, which guides us from the entrance and up the monumental staircase to the illuminated great reading hall, is a symbolic ascent toward knowledge.

Plečnik’s notebooks and sketchbooks

Over 40 of the architect's notebooks from various periods of his creative career have been preserved in the Plečnik Collection at the MGML. Plečnik even reused several of them in different periods of his architectural career. One particular notebook was most likely originally a property of Jože Plečnik’s brother Janez, as various medical terms in Latin had been awritten on the backside, which the younger brother had to learn during his medical studies. The architect later repurposed the notebook for his own sketches. Plečnik’s notebooks are treasuries of his creative ideas and also showcase his endless source of diverse forms and mastery of even small-format sketches.

Posted: 12. 6. 2023

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