Bricks that Built Ljubljana

Koseze are a nice and calm northwestern suburb of Ljubljana. Located at the foot of Koseški boršt, Rakovnik, and Debeli hrib, it used to be a small village that started to grow in the second half of 20th century.

Although a small village and later a quiet suburb its history is rich; a Paleolithic site and a couple of Bronze-Age settlements are nearby, and the Romans built an aqueduct through it bringing water from Dolnice to Emona.

It seems that during the Migration Period everyone passed through what will become Koseze, from Huns and Avars to Goths and Lombards – and, of course, Slavs.

The Early Middle Ages saw the completion of Slavic colonisation, the arrival of Bavarians and Franks, and establishment of a Feudal system.

The name Koseze is derived from the term kosezi, describing a peculiar anomaly of the Feudalism – a social stratum that is still not completely clear. Kosezi – Edlinger in German – were not vassals, nor peasants, nor anything else that would fit nicely into current understanding of the feudal society, and are attested only from Carinthia (Carantania) and Carniola.

Koseze were most probably founded as a property of one kosez sometime between the 9th and 12th century. The settlement is first attested in a document from 1414 when Pancratius of Lueg gave five farms at Koseze as a fief to Peter Orlona of Ljubljana. The church of St. Margaret dates to the 14th century.

And then nothing much happened in Koseze – until a Swede showed up.

On some of the streets of Ljubljana one can stil find older iron manholes, inscribed with Laibach – Ljubljana – G. Tönnies. They are a part of a huge yet up until recently almost unknown legacy of one of the most important creators of Ljubljana, Gustav Johann Ludvik Tönnies. He was neither an artist nor an architect, yet he left such a huge mark on the city that it could easily be called Tönnies’ Ljubljana.

Gustav was born in 1814 in the Swedish Hanseatic City of Strålsund, on the coast of the Baltic sea (today it’s Stralsund in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania, Germany). He was a renowned carpenter, and in 1845 he was called to Ljubljana to build the roof of the gigantic Kolizej (Coliseum) barracks. Gustav did an exceptional job, so the Mayor of Ljubljana Johann Nepomuk Hradeczky offered him the position of city carpenter. Tönnies’ career soon took off, he established various building and machinery companies, foundries, ironworks, quarries – and brickworks.

The area around Koseze used to be wet and marshy due to abundant clay. This clay was perfect for making bricks, so Tönnies bought a large tract of land, built a brickworks (with the first circular oven in Austria-Hungary), and started to dig the clay.

Almost every larger, more important, or industrial building in Ljubljana that was built after 1850 – and especially after the devastating earthquake of 1895 – is made of bricks from Koseze. Cukrarna (sugar factory) and Tobačna (tobacco factory), Madil textile factory, the court palace, the main railway station, Mladika complex, Catholic printing house (today the Faculty of Law), Jakopič Pavilion in Tivoli Park, the Yugoslav Credit Bank (now the Bank of Slovenia) … you name it, Tönnies and his sons built it, and bricks from Koseze are in it.

The Second World War brought the end to the brickworks and the clay quarries in Koseze. After the war one of the huge pits was filled up, and the other was flooded – creating the Koseze pond. That’s all that remains of the Tönnies brickworks.

The Koseze pond is today a nice oasis in the suburbia, an example of a marshy lake providing natural habitat for several rare and endangered plant and animal species. The pond is surrounded by a walking path with benches, and a couple of lookout piers are usually full of eager fishermen trying to catch a carp, or a sheatfish, a rudd, a bass or a zander.

All kite aerial photos shot with Nikon P330 on The New Blue rokkaku.

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