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Early years 
He was born in an artisan's family in the Upper Carniolan town of Radovljica in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire and is now Slovenia. His father was a rather wealthy stonemason who wanted to provide a good education for his son. Ivan was sent to school to Kranj and then to Ljubljana. In 1907 he enrolled to the Vienna University of Technology where he studied under the supervision of the architect Karl Mayreder.
While in Vienna, he became influenced by the Viennese Secession, especially by the work of the fellow Slovenian architect Max Fabiani, with whom he maintained a lifelong friendship. Vurnik graduated summa cum laude in 1912 and received a scholarship which he used to travel to Italy and study the local architecture. When he returned to Vienna, he was immediately offered a job at the studio of architect Ludwig Baumann, which Vurnik accepted in October 1912.
In the same year, he started to working on assignments in his native country first, first renovating the interior of the parish church in Bled, and then a similar assignment for the bishopric chapel in Trieste (1913–15). In Autumn 1913, he married the Viennese artist Helena Vurnik née Kotler.
After World War I 
In 1919, the couple moved to Ljubljana, then part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Once back in his native Slovenia, Vurnik tried to establish a specifically Slovenian style in architecture, combining the modern quest for utility with estheticism and ornamentalism. For this purpose, he re-interpreted the traditional forms of Carniolan peasant art, which he incorporated in an essentially Art Nouveau structures. One of the highlights of this so-called 'national style' is the multicoloured, patterned building of the Zadružna gospodarska banka ("Cooperative Credit Bank") in Ljubljana, designed in 1921 and finished the next year. He later moved to simpler ornaments with more archaic flavour, such as the central building for the Slovenian Sokol movement in the Tabor quarter of Ljubljana (thus known as Sokol Hall or Tabor Hall), built in 1926, and two very similar structures, one in Golnik and another one, which was destroyed during World War II, in Kranj. In the late 1920s, however, he completely rejected the search for a "National Style" in architecture and turned to a purely functionalist architecture.
In 1919, Vurnik managed to establish a department of architecture within the Technical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana. He convinced architect Jože Plečnik to join it as a full-time professor which he did in the late 1920s. Nevertheless, a rival relationship developed between the two. Vurnik thought it was Plečnik's influence in the conservative circles of local Slovenian policy-makering that prevented him to carry into effect his functionalist projects. Another reason for the antagonism between the two architect might have also derived from their different political ideology, since Plečnik was a conservative and fervent Roman Catholic, while Vurnik (although also religious) belonged to the Slovenian progressive and national-liberal tradition.
Late years 
After 1925, he devoted his time mostly to teaching. He continued to draw architectural and urbanistic projects until his death, but almost all remained on paper. Among the very few realized projects from this second period, the most famous are perhaps the summer swimming pool in Radovljica and Radovljica's only hotel, the Grajski dvor. A less famous, but still important work from this period is a set of family houses for industrial workers in Maribor, which fully exemplify Vurnik's new vision of a simple, ascetic and purely utilitarian style.
In 1965, Vurnik was offered by the local Catholic Church to renovate the Carniolan and Slovenian national shrine at Brezje. He did so returning to the "National Style" he had rejected in the mid-1920s.
See also 
- Štravs, Smilja (8 April 2011). "Vurnikova hiša na Miklošičevi: najlepša hiša v Ljubljani" [Vurnik House at Miklošič Street: The Most Beautiful House in Ljubljana]. Delo.si (in Slovene) (Delo, d. d.).
Further reading 
- Miran Kambič, Arhitektura Ivana Vurnika (Ljubljana: Arché, 1994)
- Janez Koželj (ed.), Ivan Vurnik: 1884-1971. Slovenski arhitekt = A Slovenian architect, bilingual Slovenian-English special edition of the Architect's Bulletin of Ljubljana (Ljubljana, 1995).
- Breda Mihelič, Art nouveau Ljubljana (Ljubljana: Zavod za turizem, 2005).
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- Some of Vurnik's works in the Architectural Guide of Slovenia
- Postal Stamp in Vurnik's Honour (1995) (Slovene)
- Article on Vurnik's renovation of the church in Brezje (with picture) (Slovene)