Described as a human-centered design by UNESCO in 2021, Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, represents more than a great accomplishment of the last century, but a language of an appreciation for humanity.
Currently home to approximately 280,000 people, this breathtaking city was completely rebuilt in 1895 after an earthquake had led to its devastating destruction.
The city’s design was influenced by major contributor Jove Plecnik who embarked on the project in 1932. Plecnik’s design was influenced by ancient arts and culture, especially from Greece. He hoped to create a ‘New Athens’ for the modern world. He called the project The Slovenian Acropolis.
Built with the goal of making man—rather than machines and buildings—the center of the community, Plecnik carved out a city to appreciate the beauty that people can add even in the midst of beautiful natural scenery.
His approach to architecture at that time was both unconventional and ahead of his time. In a time where the prevailing approach to architecture was modernism and functionalism, Plecnik instead took an approach to create a style that accommodated a certain spiritualism.
One of the ways through which he accomplished this was to close the city to motorized traffic. This was a novel move, one that many countries around Europe would soon come to appreciate and adopt.
His aim was to allow people to become more aware of their surroundings and appreciate the architecture and surrounding nature. As a result,, he designed the layout to accommodate mainly pedestrian movement stationing them around trees—which he planted trees in every conceivable place—the lakes the park, riverbanks, as well as beautiful buildings.
Pecnik’s design was much more than just art, he built to ensure effectiveness as well. In an interview with the BBC, Ana Porok, Director of Plecnik House Museum, stated that, “Pecnik envisioned Ljubljana as an artwork of intertwined axis and systems.”
The center is built between two axes that run south through north with many rectangles in between.
The Main axis begins at Plecnik’s House and ends at the Congress square and Zvezda Park.
The second axis, known as the water axis, begins at the Ljubljana River embankment and ends at the Sluice gate outside the Center of Ljubljana.
Slovenia’s largest city has accomplished this feat by appreciating nature and culture while establishing man as the center of priceless architecture.