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Once Urbanc building... Galerija Emporium

Introducing you a part of history in the heart of the Slovenian capital. Read a brief history of the old Urbanc palace, now the new Galerija Emporium.



This mercantile building represents one of the finest complete works of art nouveau in Ljubljana. The year on the facade tells us that it was built in 1903, on the site of two smaller suburban buildings that had been severely damaged in the earthquake. Ljubljana merchant Felix Urbanc combined three lots and in July 1902 submitted an application to the city authorities for planning permission to build a three-storey retail building.

He entrusted the plans to the Graz architect Friedrich Sigmund, and in the opinion of some art historians, this was supposedly the architect's highest-quality work. The concept of the store as a single sales premises, which was linked via a monumental staircase to a walk-through sales gallery, was reminiscent of the department stores of that time in Paris, Vienna or Budapest. In his plans, Sigmund also supposedly drew from some Budapest department store.

The Urbanc Building has a ground plan in the form of an irregular pentangle. The main facade, which is just 5.5 metres wide, faces Prešeren Square, and in so doing softens the otherwise acute-angled corner between Miklošičeva and Trubarjeva streets, and forms the facade of the square; after the earthquake this evolved from a suburban crossroads into a new urban space, and in the words of architect Maks Fabiani it became "in many respects the centre of the city". The interior houses a five-cornered sales hall, which extends over two floors designed as a gallery space. The gallery is reached by a fabulously designed three-sectioned staircase, which lies on an axis with the entrance and begins with a rounded landing, which divides elegantly into two staircase wings that then wind in a narrow arc up to one and the other side of the gallery. The staircase is supported by two types of pillar, and above the arch between them stands the statue of a woman personifying crafts.

At the beginning of autumn this year, this retail building became Galerija Emporium and shine in all its grandeur.



Immediately after the Second World War, the department store was taken from Felix Urbanc, and since then a number of different companies have occupied it. In 1946 it was registered as property of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, and in 1947 it was taken over by the Tkanina enterprise, then later by the wholesale company Merkur. In that time it has been reconstructed several times, with alterations to its interior, too. The courtyard, which was originally covered with a glass and wrought iron roof, was built over, some staircases were moved and the partitions between rooms were also shifted. Only the central space of the department store with its staircase, original furnishings, lights and even two original etched glass panels remained relatively untouched, but with its product range this part of the building was prevented from enjoying full expression right up until just a few years ago.



Emporium Gallery visitors will be able to shop in a completely renovated department store, which is a perfect mixture of tradition and contemporary design, following luxury departement sotres in Paris, New York and London.
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