The Temple of Elevated Everyday

architects Jože Plečnik
project Church of Saint Michael, Barje, Slovenia
written by Miloš Košec


Today, the plains of Ljubljana’s Barje are far more inhabited than in the 1930s; houses almost continuously line the straight roads that lead from Ljubljana to the south, towards Krim. Nevertheless, the character of the pioneer settlement of this area is still present: it can be seen as roads on embankments, ditches, and larger empty surfaces between the roads. A certain generous simplicity of urban planning interventions that cut Barje with straight lines creates contrast to otherwise dispersed villages all around Ljubljana, which reveals the late inhabiting of this area. People started to populate the marshy plains no more than two centuries ago. Therefore, there are no traces here of numerous generations that formed fragmented and irregular clusters of settlements as a result of complex proprietary, power-holding, and religious frictions, as they did elsewhere. Traditional points of identity are missing; they are compensated for with land register and ditches. This is the reason why standardized construction regulations and proprietary relationships of a rational modern state were the only ones that could have been imprinted onto the surface of Barje. In spite of the absence of layers of tradition we cannot, however, perceive Barje one-sidedly. In the same way as in any recently populated area, nature is bubbling here beneath the surface and it forces its way out through cracks every time human attention fails even for a moment. It becomes obvious that the land is merely superficially tamed when we step down into the field or meadow from the embankment and stick our foot into the deep mud of Barje. The marsh has been drained and tamed, but it has not been erased. On the contrary, in a slow rhythm the lowland itself is slowly erasing sediments of roads, gardens, and houses, and this leaves the settlements of Barje without firm ground not only in the symbolical sense – related to its identity, but also in the literal, static sense. People struggle against sinking into the soft ground with wooden and concrete piles driven into the ground ten metres and deeper. Still, in the sense of identity they are indelibly anchored by the confident vertical of the bell tower of Plečnik’s Church of Saint Michael in Črna Vas.