A building for the young, the poor and the sick is taking shape in the Favoriten district of Vienna – privately financed through sponsorship. OMV CEO Rainer Seele and medical doctor Siegfried Meryn talk about the "CAPE 10 – House of Future and Social Innovation" project and investors who embrace sustainability.
It may initially sound somewhat audacious
A building for the young, the poor and the sick built by – of all people – star architects Coop Himmelb(l)au. A welfare project worth 14 million euros – that costs the taxpayer absolutely nothing and is financed by private benefactors and companies. A meeting place in Vienna's tenth district, designed and supported by artists such as Erwin Wurm, Nicholas Ofczarek and children's author Thomas Brezina.
The "CAPE 10" daycare, healthcare and support center, set to open in the district with the highest percentage of migrants and lowest level of educational attainment in Vienna, is unusual in every respect. The project came from an idea long held by Vienna MD Siegfried Meryn. The internist and "TV doc" also managed to convince OMV CEO Rainer Seele. In this interview the doctor and the manager talk about their motives behind the project, which is being built in 2019 and will open in 2021.
What does a social project such as "CAPE 10" have to do with a corporation like OMV?
RAINER SEELE: When OMV is doing well, we want to do something to help other people do well too. We, as a company, have an international mindset so we're deeply involved in the issues of integration and solidarity. I believe there is a need to build a meeting place in Vienna.
Is the name "CAPE 10" derived from the Cape of Good Hope?
SIEGFRIED MERYN: We developed that with Wolf Prix from Coop Himmelb(l)au. It should become a place of interaction and of hope. As a society we are increasingly growing apart. Our building's architecture strives to be open and bright as a symbol of togetherness. And it's not just about healthy and sick, but about old and young, rich and poor. We also want to be a catalyst. The entire upper floor is dedicated to digitization. In the basement there is a multipurpose room for art and encouraging young talent.
SEELE: I am approaching this project with a great deal of hope. Specifically, I hope that our contribution will make a difference to the growing divisions in society. The people who will come to "CAPE 10" have problems. And the best medicine for problems is – dare I say it as a non-medical professional – it's hope. That makes it an apt name for the project.
Favoriten has around 200,000 residents but apparently just five pediatricians?
MERYN: Now there are only four! They are unwilling and unable to carry on like that. They are lone warriors. It's now flu season and on some days the doctors are seeing 150 to 200 kids in a single day. That is at the very limit of what can still be termed proper medicine. When we said that we would provide an entire floor with a 1,500 square meters of space for a children's healthcare center, numerous pediatricians, social workers, nutritionists and physiotherapists agreed to join us. And suddenly you've got a little hospital – albeit one without beds.
In addition to the healthcare services for youngsters, there will also be a clinic that OMV is supporting. Who is this for?
MERYN: Together with Scandinavian countries, we definitely have an advanced welfare and healthcare system in Austria. And yet there are people who are not insured. In the low-threshold outpatient clinic we will provide healthcare to everyone, regardless of whether they are covered by social security insurance or not.
Isn't healthcare the state's responsibility?
SEELE: The state does not have a bottomless budget and industry should make a contribution as part of a sustainable society. Regardless of this, I was surprised to find out that 1.5 percent of people in Austria do not have compulsory health insurance. That's why we are doing this.
As the head of OMV, how hard is it for you to give money to social projects?
SEELE: Actually, our shareholders expect us to embrace our responsibility to society. We want sustainable dividends. You can only enjoy corporate success long term if the company operates in a decent environment.
Dr Meryn, how much money do you need for this project?
MERYN: The total will be around 14 million euros, including the cost of construction. It's important for me to underline that the construction cost works out at 1500 euros per square meter despite the incredible architecture. This is extremely low and has only been possible through the support of many companies providing their expert services at cost.
When and how did you win over Mr. Seele?
MERYN: It was just over two years ago. You will have to ask Mr. Seele himself, why I got lucky with him. In him I found a sympathetic ear and that was the breakthrough for the project. With OMV at my side, I was able to convince many others. That's why I'm grateful to Mr. Seele, who was with us from the very beginning.
SEELE: All I did was make a decision, so I have to return the compliment in full to Professor Meryn – and hope it doesn't go to his head. He won me over. I had no idea that there was such strong demand for medical provision. And an even stronger need. We want to create a space for interaction and hope. When that succeeds, I will regard "CAPE 10" as a success.
More information on OMV’s Corporate Social Responsibility and CAPE 10.