Plečnik, Jože

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Plečnik, Jože (1872–1957). Slovenian architect who was one of the most distinguished and imaginative designers working in the Classical tradition in C20. Born in Ljubljana, he trained under Otto Wagner in Vienna from 1895 and became friendly with Kotěra. He was appointed Secretary of the Sezession in 1901, having established his own office in the Austrian capital in 1900, where he designed the Weidmann House, Hietzing (1902), and an office and apartment-block for the wealthy Johannes Zacherl in Vienna (1903–5), both of which showed strong Wagnerian influences.

His greatest work of the Vienna years was the Heiliggeist (Holy Spirit) Church, Herbststrasse (1908–13), where he used reinforced concrete, and created a stripped Neo-Classical exterior and a crypt employing crystalline, almost Expressionist forms. He was nominated by the Vienna Academy to become Professor of Architecture in succession to Wagner (1911), but his appointment was blocked at Court on the grounds that the ‘first school’ of the Austro-Hungarian Empire should not be headed by a Slovene. Plečnik was invited by Kotě to teach at the Prague School of Applied Arts (1911), and with the independence of Czechoslovakia (1918), began work on the restoration, adaptation, and enlargement of Hradčany Castle, Prague, as the Presidential Residence (1920–36), where his free use of Classical allusions in the buildings and gardens created one of the loveliest ensembles in all Europe. He also designed the Presidential Villa and gardens at Lány (1920–30), and the powerful Neo-Classical Church of the Sacred Heart, Vinohrady, Prague (1928–31).

In 1920 Plečnik accepted the Headship of the Architecture Department of the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia (newly part of Yugoslavia), retaining a post as Honorary Architect to the City of Prague. He created a series of masterpieces of Neo-Classicism in Ljubljana, including the Church of St Francis, Šiška (1926–7), various structures along the river, including bridges and colonnades in the Markets Area (1930s), the Slovene National Cemetery, Žale (1936–41), National and University Library (1939–42), and various other buildings. The Church of the Ascension, Bogojina (1925–7), employs the toughest of primitive Doric columns inside (with stilted arches), and the Church of St Michael in Barje, Ljubljana (1937–40), has a powerful campanile and a most elegant interior featuring much timberwork. Throughout his designs from 1920 until his death are free interpretations of the Greek Orders, including derivations from the Aeolian and Ionic forms, suggesting an archaic quality of great power. Unlike those who used the Classical language with literalness, Plec̆nik demonstrated what infinite variety and emotional expressiveness could be achieved by developing and extending possibilities. He deserves to be ranked among the greatest architects of C20.


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