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Ivan Vurnik

Ljubljana, Slovenia
1 of 3Alchetron

Ivan Vurnik was a Slovene architect that helped found the Ljubljana School of Architecture. He was born in an artisan's family in Radovljica. His father was a rather wealthy stonemason and Ivan was sent to school first to Kranj and then to Ljubljana. Vurnik graduated summa cum laude in 1912 from the Vienna University of Technology. He enrolled in 1907 and studied under the supervision of the architect Karl Mayreder. In Vienna he became influenced by the Austrian Art Nouveau style, especially by the work of the fellow Slovenian architect Max Fabiani, with whom he maintained a lifelong friendship. Vurnik received a scholarship and traveled to Italy to study the Italian architecture. During First World War he was an Austrian soldier on the Isonzo Front and in Tyrol. From 1919 he lived in Ljubljana.

His early style in the 1920s is associated with the search for Slovene "National Style", inspired by Slovene folk art and the Vienna Secession style of architecture. Upon embracing the functionalist approach in the 1930s, Vurnik rivaled the more conservative Plečnik's approach. The Cooperative Business Bank, designed by Vurnik and his wife Helena Vurnik who designed the decorative facade in the colors of Slovene tricolor, has been called the most beautiful building in Ljubljana. Vurnik has also drawn a number of urban plans, among these the plans for Bled (1930), Kranj (1933–1937) and Ljubljana (1935).

In the late 1920s he turned to a purely functionalist architecture and designed the headquarters of the Slovenian Sokol movement, known as Sokol Hall or Tabor Hall, because of its location in the Tabor quarter of Ljubljana. He rejected the search for a "National Style". In 1919, Vurnik managed to establish a Department of Architecture within the Technical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana. Upon his invitation, architect Jože Plečnik became one of its founding faculty. Nevertheless, a rival relationship developed between the two. Vurnik thought it was Plečnik's influence in the conservative circles of local Slovenian policy-makering that prevented him to carry into effect his more functionalist projects. Another reason for the antagonism between the two architect might have also derived from their different political ideology, since Jože Plečnik was a conservative and fervent Roman Catholic, while Vurnik (although also religious) belonged to the Slovenian progressive and national-liberal tradition.

After 1925, he devoted his time mostly to teaching. He continued to draw architectural and urban projects until his death, but almost all remained on paper. Among the very few realized projects from this second period, the most famous are perhaps the summer swimming pool in Radovljica and Radovljica's only hotel, the Grajski dvor. A less famous, but still important work from this period is a set of family houses for industrial workers in Maribor, which fully exemplify Vurnik's new vision of a simple, ascetic and purely utilitarian style.

Ljubljana, Slovenia
Bostjan, March 3rd, 2017