THE OLD POWER STATION
Tadej Brate wrote the following at the centenary of the Ljubljana
city power station: "On January 1st, 1898, the Slovene capital
of Ljubljana shone with the electric light for the first time. This
marked the beginning of the electrification era, of the implementation
of everything new and modern. We can't think of life without electricity
today. Inventors developed new appliances, machines and modes of
communication, which radically changed the conditions in the period
of electrification." Once a revolutionary power plant today
shines again with new elements, thanks to the synergy of economics,
heritage and politics.
The Ljubljana city power station, a magnificent technical monument
is one of the rare examples of industrial architecture, which is
preserved in Slovenia. It has gone through numerous changes since
1898, when its construction began. It was modernized, upgraded and
enlarged until the end of World War II, when the power station with
its then obsolete technology, was replaced by a heating plant on
the outskirts of the city.
Today, the building is a protected cultural, technical and historical
monument. It is still owned by the company Elektro Ljubljana, which
thoroughly renovated the structure on its centenary anniversary.
Some artists "discovered" this interesting building during
the 80's and the 90's and started to fill it with differing artistic
components. Among the first artists to display their works at the
Ljubljana Power Station were Ema Kugler, Matjaž Berger and Enrique
Vargas, who used the power station as the venue for his performance
through the medium of the Exodos Festival. The premises of the Ljubljana
Power Station at the end of the 90's, twice hosted the venue for
the international performing arts festival Mladi levi.
The second renovation to the Ljubljana City Power Station or Old
Power Station was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture of the
Republic of Slovenia and supervised by the architect Matija Suhadolc,
who also carried out the first renovation in 1998. Its hall, which
was officially opened on August 21st, 2004, with the Mladi levi
festival, is an excellent example of the co-operation between the
fields of politics, economics, national heritage and culture. The
Municipality of Ljubljana and The Ministry of Culture have reached
an agreement with the company Elektro Ljubljana regarding the free
rental of the building for the purposes of the performing arts.
The artistic program is the responsibility of Bunker, which was
chosen during a public tendering period. A certain section of the
building is now the main hall, while a smaller section has been
transformed into a museum, where visitors can still see a part of
the chimney, turbines and some of the remaining, original instruments
within the power station.
The current program in the power station is divided into three
sections. The first section is for rehearsals, ante-production and
residencies for foreign artists. The second section is educational:
various workshops, seminars, round tables, lectures and practice
sessions. The third section is for the presentation of performances
by home based and foreign artists, and as a venue for certain festivals.
The Old Power Station is now buzzing with activities: several
groups use it as their rehearsal venue; it is also a place for different
workshops, which range from cultural management to dance techniques,
while in the evening, the power station is frequently a venue for
various performances and other multimedia events.
The Old Power Station is unique, as it is not an abandoned building:
no less than a third of the city's electricity is still produced
there. It is a genuine example of the fusion of electric and artistic
The team at Bunker would like to incorporate the Old Power Station
onto a wider sphere, as this sector of Ljubljana could, through
thoughtful town planning in hand with cultural and artistic development,
evolve into a cultural district, starting with the City of Metelkova
and continuing via the Ethnographic Museum and the Old Power Station
itself, all the way to the Ljubljanica River.
The Old Power Station is also a unique example in Ljubljana of
a long and well-established international tradition in transforming
attractive industrial structures into cultural centres.