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The new face of vienna

Vienna ‘forgets’ its aristocratic roots

Vienna ‘forgets’ its aristocratic roots, sprouting innovative modern buildings. Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel and Peter Cookson are some of the architects shaping the new face of the city.

Something is happening in Vienna. A galactic library designed by Zaha Hadid has touched down at the University, Vivienne Westwood is designing the State Ballet’s costumes in tartan and Scottish prints, and ‘viennacontemporary,’ Austria’s main international art fair, is getting its third edition ready for 2017. Meanwhile, in a section of the city’s 4th District, a group of three young architects has created ‘Urbanauts,’ a project that turns empty ground-floor shops into lofts designed as accommodation for tourists. The 7th District is filling up with chic boutiques and hipster cafés that are giving the famous ‘Sachertorte’ a run for its money.

Nobel Prize of Architecture

Casting off its traditional image as a place dominated by imperial cafés and palaces, Europe’s most classic city is shaking things up by embracing the avant-garde. The new creative vibe is reflected in the city's art galleries, fashion, foodie culture and, in particular, an incredible architectural boom. The Austrian capital’s newest buildings have been designed by renowned architects, many of whom have received the prestigious Pritzker Prize, the ‘Nobel Prize of architecture.’

Across the Danube

Vienna remains a city where history has a strong presence, but on the Ringstrasse, which bears the indelible stamp of the Baroque and the palaces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, futuristic traces of the new century have begun to show up. Tellingly, the 700-year-old St. Stephen’s Cathedral is mirrored in the glass façade of the super-sleek Haas-Haus building, designed by star architect Hans Hollein, Austria's first winner of the Pritzker Prize in 1985.

Across the Danube, this new wave of architectural innovation has also swept the 2nd District, also known as Leopoldstadt. The best way to discover it is to wander round the streets on a bicycle (there’s a free public bike hire service), stopping to while away the time in one of its charming cafés. For this district, French architect Dominique Perrault designed ‘Donau City,’ where Austria's tallest DC tower stands. The elegant skyscraper measures 220 metres, with spectacular 360-degree views of the Danube River and Vienna City.


Laboratory of modernity

The same district is home to Hotel Sofitel Stephansdom, one of the projects designed for the city by renowned French architect Jean Nouvel. This groundbreaking building with strongly artistic overtones features video panels and drawings on the ceilings by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist. “The aim is to try to enrich the city. If you’re working with a historic city like Vienna, you have to be ambitious if you want to add something,” says Nouvel, Along with other architects, he contributed to designing the Gasometer, a residential zone surrounded by industrial estates which was revamped for commercial and residential use.

One of the most recent arrivals to the 2nd District is the campus of the Vienna University of Economics and Business. It opened in 2013 and has already been included on tours showcasing Vienna’s modern architecture. In addition to the futuristic library designed by Zaha Hadid, the campus contains other buildings designed by Hitoshi Abe, Peter Cook and Laura Spinadel.

Outside of Leopoldstat, Vienna’s architectural designs continue to send a message of diversity. The new Central Station, which opened in 2015, is one of Europe’s most modern. It’s a cluster of overlapping rhombuses set above multiple open platforms, forming a hub that links the main railway lines for travel within Austria.

Memory and innovation come together in this new era of Viennese architecture. The svelte prism façade of Hotel Topazz, one of the most compelling in the city centre, reflects this blend with its aesthetic reminiscent of Adolf Loos. The moniker ‘laboratory of modernity,' which made Vienna famous at the end of the past century, is once again as fitting as ever.

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