Architectural Gallery DESSA is the first and also the only specialised architectural gallery in Slovenia. In its 30-plus years of activity, it has sought to present and promote quality architecture, innovative design and socially engaged projects. The gallery has the status of a non-governmental organisation, and functions under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Spatial Planning.
Besides yearly presentations of Plečnik Award winners, the gallery hosts a wide range of exhibitions and lectures aimed at heightening awareness of the untold richness of Slovenian architecture: an exhibition celebrating 100 years of residential apartment design was held in 2016, and a similar project highlighting the architecture of preschools and elementary schools in Ljubljana followed in 2020.
Conversely, the gallery has provided a window into the work of internationally renowned architects: Juhani Pallasmaa, Eduardo Souto de Moura, Wiel Arets, David Chipperfield, Luis Carillho da Graça Joao are just a sample of the architects who have presented at DESSA over the years.
The gallery is also active in presenting Slovenian architecture abroad: in 2010 it organised the Contemporary Architecture in Slovenia 1999–2010 exhibition. Curated by Andrej Hrausky and Maja Ivanič, the exhibition was presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Skopje (Northern Macedonia) in the framework of the 15th Architectural Biennial of Macedonia – BIMAS 2010.
The location of the DESSA gallery and office complex today was once the site of a synagogue. After a fire destroyed it in 1213, it was rebuilt on a larger scale. In the 16th century, the synagogue was converted to a Catholic chapel, which was demolished in the 19th century.
The current building at Židovska steza 4 in Ljubljana’s city centre was built before the Ljubljana earthquake in 1895 and served several functions. In the 1930s, it housed a restaurant, after World War II it became a music school and later a craftsmen’s workshop.
DESSA Architecture Centre was founded in 1982. Its members quickly identified a need for their own exhibition space. They enlisted internationally renowned architect Boris Podrecca to draw up the first plans for the gallery space in 1987. The space follows the principles of Gottfried Semper, and is composed of four rooms, each devoted to a different building material – stone for the gallery, wood for the library, plastic for the office, and textile for the meeting room. All items except the chairs were made especially for DESSA; the chairs, designed by Niko Kralj in the 1950s, were donated by the manufacturer, Stol Kamnik. The corporate identity of the gallery was designed by Ranko Novak.
Dimensions: 34m² (7.5m x 4.5m x 3.3m H) incorporating 13 linear metres of wall space
Installation system: glass panels (11 glass panels 1m x 1.8m and 6 glass panels 0.33m x 1.8m)
Lighting: halogen lighting system