Three mighty stone pillars protrude out of the wooded slope on the shore of the most famous lake in Slovenia, Lake Bled. On an otherwise densely populated shore filled with turn-of-the-century villas, hotels and promenades, the three pillars stand in relative isolation. Only the top of the curious structure can be seen, where the pillars are linked with a concrete slab and a row of large windows opening onto a balcony with possibly the best view of the famous lake.
The Belvedere Pavilion, as the buildings are known as, has an unusual history. The dimension of the stone pillars and the steep terrain suggests an altogether different scale and programme to that of a small teahouse. Once a part of the princely Windischgrätz estate, the area was bought for Alexander, the new King of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later the first king of Yugoslavia. King Alexander decided to demolish the old aristocratic villa and to build himself a new royal castle that would serve as his summer residence. In the 1920s and 1930s, Bled regularly transformed itself into provisional royal, diplomatic and fashionable capital of the state during the summer months. In the Alpine panorama of the old medieval castle across the lake and the catholic church on the small island in the middle of the lake, the king wanted to make his own architectural mark. He asked the foremost Slovene architect Jože Plečnik, the author of the renovation of the Prague presidential residence, to come up with suitably impressive plans for the new castle. Plečnik conceived an impressive compact mansion high on the rocky hill overlooking the island. It was designed as half a feudal manor and half a Hollywood villa, complete with a curved driveway for cars that would lead directly to the lower floor of the building. The three pillars were to support the main block of the house, which could then protrude all the way to the lakeshore. Construction on the ambitious undertaking started in the 1930s; by October 1934, when King Alexander was assassinated in Marseilles, only the three great pillars were completed. The royal residence on top of them was never built; the royal widow stopped the construction and started to build a new villa on the site of the Windischgrätz mansion not far away from the original construction site.
When the villa was finished after the war, it was converted for the use of Tito, the new President of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. It was his architect and Plečnik’s disciple Vinko Glanz who used the three pillars of his teacher as a base for the new teahouse. Glanz achieved a harmonically effective composition with a clever structural as well as stylistic connection of the pillars with the new slab of the teahouse, typical for his negotiating sensibilities between the classicist Plečnik school and measured modernism of the after-war years. The Teahouse, therefore, became a permanent torso, an ideological as much as architectural non-finito, or perhaps the most effective Slovene architectural folly of the 20th century. After another regime change in the 1990s, the once closed stretch of the shore around the royal and later the presidential estate was opened to the public, which marked a new chapter for the largely unknown structure. The state protocol opened a coffeehouse in the pavilion, making the sumptuous salon with intriguing mosaics and the balcony with the lake view accessible for everyone for the first time in its history.
Text Miloš Kosec
Researcher Danica Sretenović
1930sNew summer residence for Alexander, King of Yugoslavia
1946 -1977 Tea house of Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito
1930s King of Yugoslavia
2018 Republic of Slovenia
1930s Abandoned project
1946 -1977 Good
2018 Secretariat-General of the Government
Form of government
1930s Kingdom of Yugoslavia
1946 -1977 Socialistic Federative Republic Yugoslavia
2018 Parliamentary democratic republic
Spatial Planning Agency
Type of heritage and protection
1930s Not recognized as heritage
2018 Heritage with no protection