A new type of social business: Caritas and AllesWirdGut have developed a concept that redefines hospitality.
A house for tourists visiting Vienna and for refugees, all under one roof.
A hotel with an unconventional concept and an inspiring history that is operated to professional standards—this is how the most recent project of AllesWirdGut Architects, initiated by magdas, the social business subsidiary of Caritas Austria, can be described, the magdas Hotel in Vienna’sPrater district.
78 new and elegant hotel rooms are available to city travelers, tourists in Vienna and overnight trippers, each with a view of the Prater park landscape.
Living side by side with the hotel guests are - and this is what makes the project so special - young people who, however, did nottravel of their own free will, but are refugees who were left no choice by hunger, war, persecution, and torture in their home countries.
The hotel accommodates two residential units for living communities.Supported by the Caritas, 25 young persons who came to Austria without their parents as refugeeshave been living here already since November 2014. For them, the hotel is a temporary place to stay, and for some, it is also a workplace.
This is because most of the staff working at the social value added hotel are refugees.
“magdas Hotel is a social business that connects cultures and people, that creates opportunities and a lively place of encounter,” says Caritas Social Business manager Clemens Foschi about the project.
Conversion - the social dimension of vintage style
The core part of what used to be a retirement home dates back to the 1960s.
The existing building was largely preserved and merely refurbished, adapted and brought to modern safety standards. Everybody involved was called upon to come up with creative solutions, not only in financing, but also in design.
AllesWirdGut rely on simplicity and plain elegance, well-matched reduced colors and vintage chic. At the magdas, interior design is a response to the existing building, expression of an architectural concept and creative use of scarce resources.
Financing - new ways of building
A budget of 1.5 million Euros was very tight for the conversion in to a high-standard hotel.
The fact that magdas Hotel nevertheless became a reality is owed not only to smart planning and a supporting crowdfunding campaign, but also to committed sponsors of materials who saw the project’s exceptional and innovative character and social implication. The participation of committed contractors, suppliers, but also local residents and the refugees themselves in building and providing equipment for the hotel speaks to the social dimension of architecture.
Upcycling - the magdas design concept
In the design the interior spaces - lobby, restaurant and bar, hotel rooms, and apartments - AllesWirdGut used existing pieces, found objects, and an ingenious mix of elements.
The reduced, well-matched and elegant color concept that informs the visible surfaces is accentuated with distinctive individual furnishings, pieces with a past and finds with a history. Caritas’ own carlathrift store was a rich source here, as was furniture left behind by former residents or donated to the project by the local population.
What once had been pretty conservative built-in closets was remodeled under the supervision of Daniel Büchel into tables, nightstands, and wall coat racks. Uneven walls were revamped using the proven technique of pattern roller painting.
Work tables with “tags”from students of the St. Pölten New Design University - its new building was designed by Alles WirdGut who are currently also holding a visiting professorship there - were adapted for the hotel lobby and the restaurant.
In the future, the ground floor will serve several purposes, as an entrance area and lobby for hotel guests, a shared living room for the young people staying in the house, and a bar and restaurant for visitors - a contribution to the integration of “foreigners,”whether they may be guests, customers, or refugees.
What can be made possible with a minimal budget thanks to the commitment and effort of everybody involved - from the client to the architects and to companies and volunteers - has stirred much public interest even before the completion of the project.
Change in generation: Colourful mix of cultures and styles
Over 13 million tourists are drawn to Vienna every year. The choice of B&Bs and hotels is just as large – from simple 1* accommodation to a posh 5* house – there is something for everyone. Ofall of them, Magdas Hotel is something quite unique – for spending the night or just for the experience. Nowadays, the former retirement home doesn’t just house a fresh hotel, but also a teaching programme for young refugees, who make their first steps in the hospitality industry here. Caritas Austria is responsible for this. Russian, Persian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, English or Arabic – which hotel in the world is already able to come up with such a variety of languages among its staff? The current 20 young asylum seekers come from 16 different nations and are being taught by experienced hotel and gastronomy professionals.For a further 25 minor refugees, the hotel offers temporary accommodation, whilst at the same time being a potential place in which to do an apprenticeship.
Caritas is therefore treading new paths: “Magdas Hotel considers itself a social business”, explains Hotel Manager Sebastiaan de Vos. “In other words, it provides the solution to social and economic problems whilst focusing on economic means – not the maximisation of profit.” The refreshingly unconventional architecture budget, for which Viennese firm AllesWirdGutArchitektur is responsible, also acts on this principle. With as few financial resources as possible, the former retirement home in 1960s chic should be turned into a competitively attractive hotel. 1.5 million euros have been invested. A further 57,000 euros were accrued due to crowd funding: employees, neighbours, Facebook friends and students from the nearby School of Fine Arts helped to tidy up, renovate and reorganise the building– and numerous companies supported the project too. Instead of a rigorous complete modernisation, it gave the building a loving appearance – both inside and out. Nowadays, the former dining room on the ground floor is a foyer and lobby for guests, a bar and restaurant for visitors and a living room for the young refugees, who occupy two self-contained shared accommodation units in the hotel.
In total, Magdas Hotel provides 78 rooms over three floors in five different categories, and yet each room will surprise you with its individual charm, because everyone involved was asked to find creative solutions not just to the funding, but also in the design. “We often had to improvise and work with what we had”, explained Herwig Spiegel, General Planner at AllesWirdGutArchitektur. “For example, we used furniture from Caritas’ stocks and hotel liquidations, as well as private donations and other findings. Our design concept is based on simplicity and elegance, discreetly matching colours and vintage chic. Virtually every item is hand-picked.”
What’s available therefore goes hand in hand with what’s been found, and is mixed and reinterpreted: Old plywood cupboards were turned into stylish desks. Sawn chairs grow out of the wall and serve as bedside tables. The “wall trophies” in what’s known as the “hunting room” turn out to be a wardrobe made from old bicycle saddles and handlebars. Discarded train baggage racks form shelves, colourfully painted walls are combined with new carpets and curtains. Beds, mattresses and bedding are of course new, as are the showers and toilets. Walls, fabrics and the flooring are harmoniously tailored to one another and give each room an appropriate setting.
In the apartments and suites, the architects opted for light grey DLW Linoleum. 500 m2 of the plain-coloured flooring from DLW Flooring’s Uni Walton series was laid in Magdas Hotel. The shade warm concrete grey integrates harmoniously into the room concept and prepares an appropriate stage for the distinctive and unusual interior. However, linoleum isn’t just visually satisfying: This environmentally friendly flooring is still made out of natural and predominantly renewable raw materials such as linseed oil, natural resins, sawdust, cork and jute. DLW Linoleum is free from harmful emissions and has an excellent CO2 balance – thereby making it ideal for a healthy indoor climate, as affirmed by various eco labels such as the “Blue Angel”. Last but not least, the natural flooring also scores well in a functional respect. Even in a hotel, linoleum’s resistance to wear and tear is hugely important, as is its long life, quick and uncomplicated cleaning and excellent hygienic qualities. Linoleum can be laid with sealed joints and naturally already has antibacterial properties. What’s more, it is warm underfoot, slip-resistant and is therefore particularly pleasant to walk on.
magdas HOTEL is a colourful coming together - of globetrotters, visitors, revellers, explorers and discoverers.
Run by twenty former refugees and ten hotel professionals, in cooperation with artists, architects and students, magdas HOTEL is something different: a place for meetings and connections, going far beyond regular hotel experience.
A stylish lounge, cafe, library and garden bring together tourists, neighbours, park visitors, the local creative scene, students from the art academy next door. Readings, exhibitions, concerts, film nights, discussions and Social Dinners mean the hotel is always alive with the exchange of ideas.
Business-focused, socially run
magdas HOTEL is part of Caritas Vienna's Social Business group. Their aim is to address social matters through a market approach, wherever possible. The concept of a social business is based on Nobel Prize-winner Muhammed Yunus: all income is reinvested, to create more social change. The hotel does not receive any public funding that is not also available to other companies. magdas HOTEL must be self-financing, without losing sight of its ultimate goal: improving the lives of otherwise marginalised people.
Migrants with a refugee background face problems in finding work in Austria. Challenges include a lack of German, a reluctance on the part of some employers, and a long wait (of months or sometimes years) before the approval of asylum status, which is a requirement for legal employment.
We are convinced that staff who come from around the world bring real advantages to a hotel business – skills, talents, languages and cultural insights – that give magdas HOTEL a significant advantage over its competitors. The experience of the past few month, since the opening of the hotel, proves us right.
From modest resources – come great things…
The project is based in a former Caritas retirement home, and financed via crowdfunding of € 57,306, plus a € 1.5m loan from Caritas Vienna.
To enable the adaptation of the building, on a limited budget, upcycling was a key element from the start. With help from renowned architects AllesWirdGut and artist Daniel Buechel, the nine month turnaround involved taking fitted cupboards from the original nursing home, and turning them into benches, tables and lamps. Old doors became new mirrors – and even luggage racks from Austrian trains now hold suitcases in each room. Enthusiastic volunteers got involved at every stage, from knitting lampshades to growing herbs in the garden.
Students and staff from the neighbouring Academy of Visual Arts have produced art to decorate each room, meaning every guest has a unique view. The design of each room was completed by furniture donated by the public, and also Caritas's own used furniture shop, CARLA. This all goes to show that commitment, flexibility and creative ideas can more than make up for limited financial means. To our great delight 2015 magdas HOTEL was rewarded with the Austrian State Prize for Design.