Design Center Linz is distinguished on the outside by a sleek, curving roof of steel and glass. On the inside, this ultra-modern convention center in Linz, Austria, offers a versatile, high-tech space. Equipped with ISDN telephone lines and fiber-optic cables, the center was designed for technology-enabled meetings of ten to 3,000 persons. In September, for example, the Computer Integrated Surgery 1997 conference will include videoconferencing and virtual surgery. But most surprising to the first-time visitor is the soft, natural light that brightens meeting and exhibit space even on a rainy day. Unlike other examples of contemporary architecture that feel cold and stark, Design Center Linz projects a cheerful warmth. Its innovative glass-roof construction not only allows outside light to enter the building, but also reflects 80 percent of it--nearly doubling the natural light level.

Such innovation typifies the atmosphere of Linz. This thriving provincial capital of Upper Austria--just a two-hour drive from Vienna--has redefined itself as a high-tech hub, but one that preserves its historical and cultural identity. The city's eye to the future is represented by Design Center Linz and a unique interactive computer museum called ARS Electronica Center. This not-to-be missed attraction has five floors of computer-based activities that range from a virtual-reality flying machine to a multimedia representation of Linz. The top-floor glass-enclosed cafe, with sweeping views of the Danube, is available for evening receptions. Here, attendees can surf the Web while nibbling on Linzer tortes or sipping the center's signature Cyber Beer.

For all its forward momentum, Linz has a well-preserved old town, with courtyards, baroque arcades, and a mix of architecture that ranges from Gothic to Romanesque to Renaissance. The late-nineteenth century Palais Kaufmannischer Verein is an attractive venue for small meetings and special events, with eight meeting rooms, a concert hall, and in-house catering for up to 1,000 persons.

The city has 3,000 guest rooms in top-quality hotels, including the immaculate 236-room Ramada Hotel Linz, which is linked to the convention center. Austrian Airlines flies nonstop to Vienna from New York, with connecting flights to Linz on Tyrolean Airlines. There are also nonstop flights to Vienna on Swissair and on Delta.