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Newcastle upon Tyne, England, United Kingdom
October 19, 2012
From journal The Bridges Over the Ljubljanica
by Owen Lipsett
New York, New York
May 28, 2005
Contrary to popular belief, the Dragon Bridge is one of the few modern Ljubljana landmarks not designed by Jože Plečnik. Ironically, for the most recognizable feature of Slovenia’s capital city, the architect responsible for the delightful dragons, Jurij Zaninovich, was a Croatian, while the engineer responsible for the designing structure itself, Josef Melan, was an Austrian. At the time of its construction in 1901, the bridge’s supporting structure featured the third largest arch in Europe constructed according to the principles of the Melan System. This innovation did away with the need to build (and then remove) rigid metal supports from bridges by incorporating them into the arches themselves, meaning that they could consequently be built far more rapidly.
The bridge was originally named The Jubilee Bridge of the Emperor Franz Josef I (Jubljeni Most), which accounts for the dates 1848 and 1888, which appear on its south side. Interestingly, the greatest advocate for this rather imperialist structure was Ivan Hribar, who served as Ljubljana’s mayor between 1896 and 1910, one of the first ethnic Slovenes to do so. The famously punctual Hribar remains one of Ljubljana’s greatest figures because of his largely successful attempts to modernize his home city in the wake of the 1895 earthquake, but it’s somewhat ironic that the structure most closely associated with his leadership opened 3 years late. Despite the dates on the bridge, it was actually originally intended to open in 1898 to celebrate Franz Josef’s Golden Jubilee.
Hribar, a staunch advocate of Slovene culture, got the last laugh, however, cleverly ordering that the placard on the side of the bridge dedicated to the (Austrian) Franz Josef I be written in Slovene rather than German. It’s the earliest known official use of the country’s language, which was banned from schools by the Hapsburgs. Furthermore, the bridge’s grandiloquent original name never caught on, as Ljubljancani simply called it Zmajski most in honor of the sculptures. Hribar was must have been very pleased in 1919, when this change in nomenclature from a tribute to a foreign monarch to a reference to a local legend was made official, along with the Slovene language itself.
From journal The Discreet Charms of Ljubljana