The trip’s sketching exercise was executed over the better part of eight days. Starting on the second day at the southern end of the city, in the historic suburb of Prule, I walked along the Ljubljanica and Gradaščica rivers, measuring, drawing and photographing each distinct segment. I had ample time to create dimensioned diagrammatic sections of each distinctly different section and collected photographic backup to draw any minor permutations. Though I’d anticipated working primarily in section, I ended up spending a good deal of time drawing site plans - standing on bridges to get an elevated view of landscape plantings and connections to the city. The sections capture the operational and spatial performance of the linear sequence and the plans suggest the urban connectivity (or, in some sense, the ‘zoning’) of the project.
I found that the physical character of the river embankments is closely synched with the relative level of urbanity and density of adjacent neighborhoods. In the suburban areas of Ljubljana the river promenade takes the character of a neighborhood park, with ease of access and a wealth of open area for leisure, exercise, and conversation. In the city center the embankments swell into a framework for urban life, supporting outdoor cafes and pedestrian connections all while hosting opportunities for lush plantings of poplar and willows to bring some relief from overwhelming amounts of hardscape. Plečnik’s primary bridges, all as wide as they are long, function as urban plazas, reclaiming area in the densest parts of the city for commerce, promenade, and performance.
Since the sketching exercise played out geographically, the study of post-Plečnik interventions proceeded as a parallel project – that is, I indiscriminately drew and photographed each project as it appeared in sequence along the river regardless of author. There were a number of projects from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s that I’d incorrectly attributed to Plečnik because they were executed in virtually the same style with the same materials. The relatively restrained, repetitive vocabulary of Plečnik’s edge, combined with the inherent continuity of the rivers, sets up an openendedness to the projects that both accommodated and provided an architectural vocabulary for these future extensions. There were also a number of renovation projects planned or underway, so this was an ideal transitional moment to capture the original projects with a half-century of weathering.
As I quickly found, Plečnik’s projects along the water in Ljubljana are not isolated interventions for creating a picturesque city. In reality, Plečnik’s sequence is a contiguous armature that connects neighborhoods and functions as a primary organizing element in the cohesive urban plan for Ljubljana. The project is by definition a linear park but is clearly calibrated to operate transversely, onnecting adjacent neighborhoods and binding long-bifurcated precincts along a meandering central spine. I spent a good deal of time walking along the primary arteries, parallel to the river, which were amplified by Plečnik in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Like his treatment of the water’s edge, Plečnik’s interventions in the city are experienced as a narrative sequence, where distances are linked by visual markers, large-scale monuments give meter to the walkable city, and widened or distinguished ground planes enrich primary corridors