2015 marks the 150th birth anniversary of the famous architect Max Fabiani, one of the most important Central European architects of the turn of the 20th century. In celebration of the anniversary, numerous events will be held in Slovenia and abroad, starting in Ljubljana with photo exhibition of Fabiani’s works by renowned photographer Miran Kambič in the Tivoli Park.
Emerging at the turn of the century, a new architectural style, known as Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Liberty, Secession or Modernism, changed significantly the appearance of a number of European cities. The architects of the period utilized the advantages of the new industrial serial production and new materials such as iron, steel, glass and reinforced concrete. Their inspiration was coming from the animal and plant worlds, folklore, geometric forms, exotic cultures and religions.
Ljubljana’s Art Nouveau buildings were mostly designed by local architects, who contributed to national awakening in Slovenia just like their Hungarian, Scottish, Catalan, Finnish, and other counterparts did in their own countries. The majority of Art Nouveau buildings in Ljubljana were constructed during the first decade of the 20th century along the Miklošičeva Street, which connects the old city centre with Ljubljana Railway Station. Several examples of Art Nouveau architecture can also be found in Ljubljana’s surrounding areas.
At the end of the 19th century Ljubljana was the capital of the Austro Hungarian Province of Carniola, and a sleepy provincial town with less than 36,000 inhabitants. The turning point was the devastating earthquake which struck the town in 1895. Ljubljana’s mayor, Ivan Hribar decided for a large-scale rebuilding scheme and gave key projects to Slavic architects, such as Bosnian Josip Vancaš and the Slovenes Ivan Vurnik, Cyril Metod Koch and Max Fabiani. Fabiani in particular was quite influential in Ljubljana, though he lived and worked in Vienna. It was he who introduced the Austrian Secessionist style to the city, following the fashions of the Austrian capital.
Max Fabiani (1865-1962) was a Slovenian-Italian-Austrian architect, born in the Slovenian village of Kobdilj in the Karst region. He came from a wealthy family that enabled him to pursue his studies of architecture in Vienna where he became a close collaborator of the famous Viennese architect Otto Wagner. Fabiani was one of the originators and active members of the Austrian Art Nouveau movement, referred to as the Viennese Secession. Due to his active role in the circle of Viennese artists and the famous Art Nouveau buildings he designed in Vienna, Ljubljana, Gorizia, and Trieste in the period between 1899 and 1909, Fabiani contributed to the establishment of the principles of modern architecture. In 1902 he obtained the first doctorate in the field of urban planning in Austro Hungarian Empire and became a personal adviser to Archduke Franz Ferdinand. In 1919 he gave up his academic career in Vienna and moved to Gorizia, where he devoted himself to the reconstruction of towns and villages, affected by the war. He died in Gorizia in 1962.
His most famous works outside Slovenia are: Palace Artaria in Vienna (1900), Palace Urania in Vienna (1902), Revenue Office building in Gorizia (1903), Trieste National Hall (1904), Stabile Palace in Trieste (1906) urban development plans for Bielsko-Biala in Poland (1899), Monfalcone (1919) and Gorizia (1921) etc.
His work in Ljubljana
After the 1895 earthquake that badly damaged 90 percent of buildings in Ljubljana, the town council decided to commission a general regulation plan and choose Fabiani, who prepared a large-scale urban development plan and also designed several squares and buildings. His plan is the first essay on urban planning written in Slovenian language. On its basis today’s city centre has been built. Fabiani designed modern grid street system with direct links to the railway station, and new squares. Along the ring he envisaged circular public transport lines and pointed out the issue of railway lines in the fast growing city. Some of his ideas were so much ahead of their time that they were never realized and are still viable today.
Miklošič Square (1899-1902)
is considered to be the most beautiful Art Nouveau square in the city. Park underwent many changes over the years, so the original plan is no longer visible.
Krisper House (1901)
was built first in the series of buildings in the context of post-earthquake construction plan. The house has become an example and showed the design guidelines for later building development around Miklošič Square. The corner is highlighted with a bell tower – the motif, taken on by other buildings on the corners of the square.
St. Jacob Girls’ School (1901)
Fabiani has only reluctantly used the secession decorations, so he adorned with vegetable patterns only the corners of the upper floors. There were also educational inscriptions that were removed in reconstruction after World War II.
Hribar House (1903)
was commissioned by Ljubljana Mayor Ivan Hribar. The main facade overlooking the Slovenska Street has three corrugated bulges with panoramic windows and a decorative lintel with lion’s heads.
Prešeren Square (1905)
is the central square in Ljubljana, nowadays a part of the old town’s pedestrian zone and a major meeting point. Located in front of the medieval town’s entrance, the square is a funnel-shaped hub of streets that run from it into different directions. At the eastern side of the square stands a bronze statue of the Slovene national poet France Prešeren with a muse by the sculptor Ivan Zajec.
Mladika Palace (1907)
was built as a secondary school for girls with a red bricked façade adorned with stucco floral motifs and owls, symbolizing wisdom. The main entrance is also surmounted by a clock turret. It is currently the seat of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia.
Bamberg House (1907)
built for Slovenian publisher and printer Otomar Bamberg, hence the sculptural decoration with reliefs of printers on the facade. The house shows the architect’s effort to integrate architecture and its environment – this is evident in the choice of materials and architectural elements such as baroque forefront, which is similar to the one of Ursuline church.
The City of Ljubljana is a partner of the European Art Nouveau Network, which includes various European cities with a rich Art Nouveau heritage – from Helsinki to Barcelona, and from Glasgow to Budapest.