Set in Vienna's design-forward 4th district, Gabarage Upcycling Design repurposes materials from personal and corporate donations—old binders, street signs, film, tennis balls and more—into playful, purposeful modern design pieces. The upshot is a dramatic increase in product lifecycles, garbage bins may become furniture, a silencer may become a piece of jewelry, and a bowling pin can find a far more peaceful existence as a flower vase.
But what Gabarage provides its community goes beyond ecologically sound design solutions into the realm of social responsibility. Every finished product in its showroom results from collaborations between professional artists and designers and a team of disadvantaged people from the surrounding community, all preparing to rejoin the regular labor market. Its staff of 20 includes unemployed individuals, welfare recipients and adolescents addicted to illegal substances who either completed drug therapy or are being cared for at outpatient clinics. The employees gain professional creative experience through an occupational training program developed specifically for the shop.
When asked about the company's hopes for the future, Daniel Strobel, Gabarage's head of marketing and corporate communications, replies, "Besides the aesthetically pleasing aspect, most of all I hope that our products and the idea behind them contribute to a rising level of awareness concerning both the ecological and the social responsibility we all bear. By (re)using waste materials and employing former addicts, we work toward a more sustainable economy and try to set an example for corporate social responsibility, which hopefully many will follow."
Photography by Ambra Duda and Sandra Krimshandl-Tauscher