Contemporary European Landscapes: Vienna, Zurich, Copenhagen

Experiencing the unique history and culture of Europe, traveling from city to city, it is a dream that many people put on their bucket list. Margherita Bagiacchi, a Professor in the Interior Design department at Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici, held three lectures on contemporary European landscapes, exploring these dream-like places, through the cities of Vienna, Zurich, and Copenhagen.

Walking through any European city with the eye of an architect is a useful tool for not only designers, but anyone searching for a unique experience. Appreciating architecture and design opens the traveler to the city’s cultural bones, explaining the past, present and future of the place. With an architect’s eye in mind, your perspective can change and your approach to touring through any city can take on a new template.


with its sprawling palaces, spiralling cobbled lanes, and tasteful Kaffeehäuser (coffee houses), is immersed in a rich history. However the city is also at the forefront of design, architecture, contemporary art, and gastronomy. Vienna is a city that not only holds onto its heritage, it integrates it in everything, such as Ateliers Jean Nouvel’s latest project, Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom-Stilwerk. A 5 star hotel that is famous for their interiors, with 182 bedrooms and suites, the mixed-use project also includes conference rooms, a fitness club, and a restaurant with panoramic views on the 18th floor. This top floor restaurant is comprised with glazed walls on all sides and a brightly patterned ceiling that can be distinctly seen from the street outside. It is a place that gives a comfortable feeling and cultural highlights, while still being new and fresh. From Adolf loos one room American Bar made in 1907, to the Museum Quarter’s colourful outdoor seating “Enzi”, done by the architecture group PPAG, Vienna’s past is alive in its present, and by extension, its future.


a modern metropolis and lively financial hub, actually has more in common with Europe’s more eccentric, avant-garde cities, like Berlin or Barcelona, than many would think. Underneath the facade of its immaculate streets, extremely punctual tram systems, exacting banking traditions and sanctimonious Alpine churches lies a somewhat stranger city that can astonish you at any turn. There are 50 museums and 100 art galleries in Zurich but the wilder side of the city is shown through projects like the Recycled Shipping Containers made by the brothers Markus and Daniel Freitag. They are known for their innovative and stylish messenger bags made from old truck tarps. In 2006 they mounted shipping containers to make a huge tower. This radical project boasts the title of being the tallest in the world at 26 meters high, and everything is reclaimed just like the materials they use for their popular bags. Bizarre projects such as this debunk the traditional notions of Zurich, revealing an exciting city bursting with innovative design.


a city with absolutely stunning architectural attention to detail. Whether from the wonderfully historic, to contemporary architecture, it is of the highest quality and rarely do you find the new clashing with the old. More often than not, the contemporary architecture in Copenhagen actually elevates the perception of the historic buildings and streets. One very interesting project I found was the Ordrupgaard Museum Extension designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. It was conceptualised from Zaha Hadid’s own interpretation of the surrounding site and the relationship to the existing structure. The building has a astonishingly different and contemporary expressions in comparison to the original country house, but they were able to capture the soul of the landscape and artfully bring it up to date, while still retaining Ordrupgaard’s core characteristics.This example of melding the old and new is exactly the contemporary perception of design that allows for new perspectives and conversations.

Juliana contep. euro landscapes
Museum Quarter’s colourful outdoor seating “Enzi” in Vienna with Marist BA students Johanna Schwabl and Aimelie Moen. 

Margherita’s lectures can teach all designers and travelers to look for what we cannot experience in our daily life. It is easy to follow the crowd of tourists, but takes little more time and effort to discover the interesting underbelly of a European city. By being a traveler and leaving the tourist traps behind, we can discover new things that will enhance our experience. Changing my perspective to be design oriented has made me curious to see more and to learn what great design can look like.

When in a new city, take advantage of the local architects and designers, maybe even ask to meet, or see their studio. The mind of architects, designers, and travelers are quite similar in that they are curious to learn. Many European cities are breeding grounds of new architectural thoughts where innovative experiments are brought to life.

Hopping into Copenhagen with fun and interesting designs that integrate the old and new like these sidewalk trampolines in Nyhaven, or "New Harbor," tried out by Camille Mansour a student from Cal Poly San Louis Obispo.
Hopping into Copenhagen with fun and interesting designs that integrate the old and new like these sidewalk trampolines in Nyhaven, or “New Harbor,” tried out by Camille Mansour a student from Cal Poly San Louis Obispo.

Here is a glimpse:

Share your own design discoveries on the #ldmgrandtour google map at:

or hashtag your photos with #ldmstudents #ldmflorence #ldmlectures #acrosseurope #acrosseuropeldm #ldmcitylovers #ldmgrandtour #urbanscapes #urbanscapesldm.

Have no fear, you dont have to use them all, but in order to spread the design love, the hashtags and map will culminate new places of design and architecture for us all to explore. Furthermore, Margherita’s lectures will continue to uncover both architectural and cultural issues of the lifestyles from city to city. Be there or be square.


 julianaJuliana Inglese is a full time student at Marist-LDM in Florence working towards her bachelor’s degree in Interior Design and Art history. Writing for the Interior Design Department blog allows her to not only utilize her passion for design and travel, but also encourages in-depth research and discovery about her fields of study. After graduation, her goal is to work for an established sustainable design firm on projects around the world.