Architect Jože Plečnik designed one of his most important buildings for Vzajemna zavarovalnica, a mutual insurer, which decided to erect a new building next to Ljubljana’s railway station for its 30th anniversary in 1930. The monumental corner building was designed as a commercial and residential building on the inside and a city palace on the outside.
Spatially, the building is designed along the lines of Wagner’s classical Viennese palaces, following the geometry of the street, with a corner entrance and an accentuated ground-floor plinth. Plečnik put all his efforts into the façade, where he incorporated a whole series of symbols related to the activity for which the house was intended. The building took on the name of “the palace” or “the Vzajemna zavarovalnica building”.
Today it is owned by Zavarovalnica Triglav.
The difference in functions is also clearly reflected in the design of the façade, where the commercial part of the ground floor and the mezzanine are designed differently from the brick-lined upper floors where the apartments were located. In the basement, there was a gym and a “tourist chapel”, where people would stop by on Sunday morning before heading to the nearby train station to go on day trips.
Today home to Zavarovalnica Triglav
The Palace of Vzajemna zavarovalnica
Miklošičeva cesta 19, Ljubljana
Architect: Jože Plečnik
France Tomažič, Janez Valentinčič
Sculptor: Ivan Pengov
Erected in: 1930
Plečnik focused significantly on the façade and on working out a design for the staircase. He strived to create a building that could compete with his Zacherlhaus in Vienna. The building has a single façade, which continues along both streets via an accentuated corner. The difference in its functions is also clearly reflected in the façade’s design, where the commercial part of the ground floor and the mezzanine are made of stone, while the upper floors, where the apartments were located, are lined with brick. In the upper floors, Plečnik worked on the double façade of the building. The outer layer consists of columns, the inner of a brick façade with window and door openings and modest decoration. The layers are revealed and hidden in different ways. The brick columns are placed in front of the façade in a way that hides the windows when viewed from the side. They are narrower at the bottom than at the top, giving the impression to an observer on the street that they are the same thickness throughout. Such optical corrections have their origins in the architecture of ancient Greek temples. Plečnik expressed the symbol of mutuality on the façade by depicting statues on the frieze of the building connected by a rope. Above them are also children, symbolising future generations, bound together in mutual solidarity. The building was constructed using only local, native materials and all the work was carried out by local craftsmen.
In addition to Plečnik and Tomažič, Janez Valentinčič also participated in the preparation of the plans, drawing the detailed plans for the façade, and later Plečnik entrusted him with the plans for the chapel and its furnishings. The street façade was not implemented according to the basic plan, as Valentinčič made a new implementation plan before construction began. The original plan called for a deeper balcony around the entrance corner on the first and second floors, and a façade with windows set back a metre or so behind the columns, except around the round corner room. In this part, the columns would be moved 35 centimetres into the interior of the building. The balcony railing would not be made of balustrades, but of artificial stone, and the pillars around the corner would be stone and not brick like the others. The shape of the round corner room would also have caused the rear window in front of the corner on the façade along Miklošičeva Street and then Masarykova Street to be left out.
Plečnik’s mezzanine plan
The mezzanine, with its conference halls and offices of the insurer’s management, was the representative part of the building. There were management offices and a small and a large meeting room along Miklošičeva Street, two large conference halls for the life and fire insurance departments and a few offices along what was then Masarykova Street. Above the entrance hall was a round meeting room. All the rooms had furnishings designed by Plečnik. When the Tomažič section was extended in 1936, the meeting room was moved to the new wing. In the post-war period, all the conference halls, except the meeting rooms, were converted into small offices.
The entrance lobby with two consultation rooms in front of the office wing in the mezzanine of the former National Liberation Square
Natural disaster insurance department conference hall
Large meeting room
Life insurance office
The courtyard façade of the building is designed in a modest, almost utilitarian way. Two staircases stand out from the basic volume of the building, while simple balconies with thin metal railings extend across the entire façade on the floors of the tenant apartments.
The building had several office spaces designed as conference halls. They were essentially consultation rooms for clients. In the post-war period, all the conference halls, except the meeting rooms, were converted into small offices.
A “tourist chapel” was also built in the basement of Plečnik’s building. There were masses held there at 4.15 a.m. for all the Sunday day-trippers before they left to catch their trains at the nearby train station. The chapel was built in 1933, and the plans for it were prepared by Plečnik’s assistant Valentinčič. The entrance to the chapel was marked on the street façade by a stone relief of the Virgin Mary and Child by Ivan Pengov.
After the war, the chapel was converted into an archive. The chapel was dismantled and moved to Dražgoše in agreement with the diocese. It was used as a temporary chapel until 1966, when a church was built in Dražgoše according to the plans of the architect T. Bitenc and the furnishings from the insurance building’s chapel were transferred there.
The façades of the ends of the building wings along both streets are blind, but were inscribed with the inscription and the symbolic element of the pillar – strength and mutuality.
The hole in the head of the statue which stands in the waiting room on the first floor of the building, is the result of the assassination on a high-ranking official from Vzajemna zavarovalnica, Mr Ivo Peršuh, by Turk Dušan and Dušan Frank, members of the Communist Security and Intelligence Service. After the assassination, while fleeing from the insurance office, they fired shots, accidentally hitting the statue in the upstairs waiting room, which still has a hole in it.
Archival material and data:
Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana documents / Plečnik’s collection
Historical archives of Ljubljana
Book: Martelanc, Ivan. Vzajemna zavarovalnica v Ljubljani, Ljubljana, 1933
Annual Report of ‘Vzajemna zavarovalnica v Ljubljani’ for 1939, For its Fortieth Anniversary,
Vzajemna zavarovalnica, 1940
Archives of Rok Pintar
National Museum of Contemporary History