‘The World’ at Dubai and Azerbaijan’s floating super-skyscrapers have an unlikely precedent in the form of Bled Island, a tiny locus of urbanism stranded in the middle of the 1,380 meter-wide lake from which the isle takes its name. Slovenia’s only island, the site has been continuously inhabited since at least the 9th century when a pagan temple was (unknowingly) erected on the remains of prehistoric settlements dating from the 11th century BC. When the land came under Christian control, the temple was destroyed and replaced with a smaller structure, initiating a series of construction and revisions that would transform the island for centuries to follow.
The earlier buildings were replaced by a Romanesque basilica in 1124; the three-naved church was then rebuilt in the Gothic style in the 15th century, when the still-standing 54-meter bell tower and main altar were added to the complex. Following a destructive earthquake in 1509, the grounds were thoroughly renovated and reconstructed as the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary, this time according to the Baroque fashion of the time, to which the extensive golden carvings and moldings attest. The monumental staircase, installed in 1655, appears to descend into the lake depths, extending from the entrance of the church down towards the base of the island. The collage of edifices and infrastructure, interspersed with trees and lawns, add up to a proto-”landform building” in which structure and landscape have been alternately conflated and configured into an dense urban space–the fragments of a illusory postdiluvian city swallowed up by time.