October marks a 100 years since Plečnik settled in his house in Trnovo

After decades of living abroad, Jože Plečnik moved back to his home city of Ljubljana in autumn of 1921. The reason was his new position as professor at the newly established Department of Architecture at the Faculty of Technical Sciences in Ljubljana. There he imbued his students with knowledge until the last months of his life.

Plečnik with his dog Sivko, in front of his house In Trnovo
Plečnik with his dog Sivko, in front of his house In Trnovo © MGML documentation / Plečnik Collection

After finalising his move from Prague to Ljubljana, Jože Plečnik opted to live in the house that his older brother Andrej bought in 1915 at Karunova 4 in Trnovo, Ljubljana, as opposed to living with his sister in the city centre, where he had temporarily settled. Andrej, a priest by profession, bought the house with his modest savings in order to have a quiet home after retirement. The move was a necessity for the creative architect to have a drawing room, something that would not be possible at his sister’s place. Therefore, his first move was to rearrange the part of the house with the kitchen on the ground floor and two rooms upstairs, which then also served as a larger drawing room.

In the words of the architect in a letter to his brother Andrej on his move, dated on 11 October 1921, “For two nights I have now slept upstairs – and it was good.”

According to the date, we can assume that he permanently settled in the house on 9 October 1921 and never changed his address again.

Soon, Plečnik added a cylindrical annex to the old house. His plans are dated to May 1923.

Plečnik designed the annex so that the house, where he had been living alone for more than 18 months, would acquire enough space for both of his brothers and his sister with her family. The siblings wanted to create a common home under the same roof. He designed the annex as a cylinder with two circular rooms. His was to be a small room on the ground floor, designed in the spirit of a monk’s cell, just large enough for a bed and a wash basin. He planned his drawing room in the more sizable round space with large windows and a view of the garden. His younger brother Janez was to live in the room above, while Andrej and his sister Marija were to arrange their living quarters in the old part of the house. Their sole meeting space was to be the kitchen in the old house’s ground floor, where they could meet for family meals. The annex was thus built thanks to the need and realisation for relatively separate spaces, which Plečnik arranged in a manner that would guarantee the most privacy for all the residents in the house. Since the very start, the architect had thus also planned a special entryway for the annex. He eventually built it on the north side of the house, and it leads to the hallway, which connects the older house with the newly built edifice.

As the house’s new part was completed in 1925, Plečnik and his younger brother Janez soon settled in it. The brothers had different characters, and their needs and wishes were too far apart for a successful life together. Janez, a social butterfly, had visitors and played the piano, which disturbed the architect’s work. After only a few months, they began to argue and Janez returned to his old apartment.

Marija never moved to the house in Trnovo and sadly passed away a few years later, while Andrej had to move and work at the monastery in Repnje, where he died in 1931.

As fate would have it, the architect eventually found his last home here. He enlarged the property by buying the neighbouring house and its back yard in 1928, where he built a winter garden in the following year. When furnishing the house, he often used construction elements and prototypes from his other projects, with the house also serving as a testing ground for various combinations of local materials and their finishing. He would call the house his “experimental hotbed”, as many of his architectural experiments later proved to be the right solution for future works. His creative life concluded in the house on 7 January 1957.

The jubilee event, a hundred years since the architect Plečnik settled in the house at Karunova 4 in Ljubljana’s district of Trnovo, is being commemorated with an Open Doors Day this Saturday, 9 October 2021. The Plečnik House, which is now a unique museum, will be open from 10 am to 6 pm. Visits to the house will be possible with guided visits, which are limited to 7 persons. Reservations can be made at plecnik@mgml.si or by calling 01 280 16 04.

Posted: 7. 10. 2021

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