The John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, presented in partnership with ScotiaBank CONTACT Photography Festival
Curated by Laura Miller
In this exhibition, Toronto-based photographer Geoffrey James traces the work of the brilliant, but little-known architect Jože Plečnik (1875-1957), focusing on sites Plečnik transformed within the city of Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital. Over nearly three decades in the mid-twentieth century, Plečnik created of a series of remarkable civic settings, infrastructural projects, and buildings in that city. His various works manifest an idiosyncratic architectural expression in that combined – among many things – the incorporation of Roman ruins, mannerist classical elements, hybrid building typologies, the formal preoccupations of early modernism via the Vienna Secessionists, a proto-cubistic spatial sensibility, and vernacular building forms, all executed with a high degree of craft and material presence. The site of his creative production in Ljubljana, Plečnik’s austere private working and living spaces could not be more dissimilar to the lively, often crowded civic and cultural spaces he created in the city, yet his home and studio reveal the precision and modesty that were essential to Plečnik’s character and approach to architecture.
James’ images, made with a hand-held camera, avoid the rigid conventions of architectural photography. Taken at both day and night, and through the seasons, they convey both the intimate details of Plečnik’s studio and the wide range of his urban-scale achievements. In the exhibition, animated photographs on multiple digital screens show the everyday use of the architect’s hugely successful social spaces. “There is a combination of the social and the spiritual in Plečnik’s work that is not evident in most of the architectural photographs I have seen,” James says. “I am trying to do justice to a complex subject and at the same time make images that are worthy as photographs.”
Geoffrey James is Toronto’s first Photo Laureate. He is the author or subject of more than a dozen books and monographs dealing with aspects of the built environment.