Bedside Manner: Hostels

Katie Noble and Regina Winkle-Bryan • May 18, 2018

Photos: Recent Projects

In the past decade, hostels have undergone something of a rebirth, transitioning from grungy shared rooms to design-forward, budget-friendly dwellings that are a mix of lifestyle hotels, home-sharing services, and coliving spaces, which speak to the modern, experience-driven traveler who is seeking affordable, stylish, and social destinations. In some places, that means minimizing hostel sleeping space to emphasize the communal areas, like in Vietnam’s coastal resort city Nha Trang, where locally based TAK Architects crafted Ccasa, which functions like traditional Vietnamese family houses with bedrooms located in colorful shipping containers stacked among the shared eating areas and washrooms. Elsewhere, such as Reykjavík’s Oddsson, designed by Icelandic studio Döðlur, elevated elements like custom furniture, luxury accommodations, and an Italian fine dining restaurant, meet in a former 1940s warehouse space that is also home to more traditional hostel rooms with single beds and wooden bunks.

In Beijing, part of a wider project to revitalize one of the city’s fast-disappearing hutong courtyard neighborhoods, ZAO/standardarchitecture created the miniscule Micro Hostel, where rooms featuring rough concrete exteriors and wooden floors are staggered and stacked, projecting into the courtyard to bring more light inside through floor-to-ceiling doors and windows. To maximize space inside, ladders rather than staircases connect the floors and public spaces, including a study, teahouse, and kitchen and dining area.
Here, we look at a handful of hostels proving they are no longer the Millennials’ best-kept secret.

Together Hostel
Also located in Beijing, and with a goal to foster connections between its guests, Together Hostel is found on the second and third floors of a traditional hotel building (the hostel portion uses the hotel’s check-in system). The original idea for one of the floors, explains local architect Cao Pu—who also plays guitar in a rock band—was to create a music festival-style layout with a completely empty space (save for bathrooms) where guests would set up their own tents. As the idea evolved, however, Pu decided to keep that vibe but with permanent sleeping “tents” scattered throughout. Made from a steel structure with veneer that looks like wood, the tents boast wood-framed doors with sliding polycarbonate panels. “This project considers indoor space as an area rather than a series of closed rooms,” Pu explains. Several of the smaller tents are grouped together to create semiprivate zones, while another massive tent structure encompasses communal spaces, including a kitchen and coffee bar and a small, amphitheater-style seating area. White-painted concrete walls and white laminate flooring are punctuated very sparingly with pops of color, adding to the light and bright atmosphere.

Whereas Together channels Woodstock-era connections of yesteryear, new hostel concept COO has emerged in Singapore, with its first outpost located in food and shopping hotspot Tiong Bahru. To help guests meet each other, the brand launched COO Connect—a tool available at booking that matches travelers based on their interests so they can explore the city together when they arrive. “We thought this would be a great way to embody the convivial spirit of an old-fashioned backpackers’ community while harnessing the Millennial generation’s love for digital connectivity, so it’s engaging people physically and digitally,” says Colin Seah, founder and design director of Ministry of Design (MOD). The local firm handled the design along with the so-called sociatel’s brand strategy, which sets out to engage guests with local, social, and playful experiences, marrying the physical and digital worlds in one holistic experience. Drawing on the neighborhood’s history, COO’s metal mesh entry screens recall window grills commonly used on apartments in the 1940s and ’50s, while dramatic graphics on the black walls (also done by MOD) represent local shops, architecture, and traditional food. The former shop house’s upper floors contain 11 bunk rooms for up to 68 guests, while hangout spots include a bistro and an open-air terrace on the second floor.

The Street
In the northern Indian city of Mathura, an 800-room hostel for GLA University students by Indian firm Sanjay Puri Architects creates extreme architectural interest compared to the other, more dull campus structures. The buildings, covering five linear blocks, call to mind the winding streets of old Indian cities, according to firm founder Sanjay Puri. Oriented north to create views of garden areas, edge-shaped bay windows bring in light and minimize heat gain. “The orientation layout and details create an energy-efficient design with no artificial lighting required through the day,” explains Puri, “and no air conditioning is required at all, even though the climate is hot for eight months of the year.” The internal faces of each building’s bay windows are painted a different, primary color, while two focal areas at the ends of each offer cafeterias, game rooms, and gyms that open onto the north-facing gardens and terraces.

Native Hostel Austin
Native is bait for Millennial explorers, as the hostel’s website calls them, and has become a place for thrillseekers to reconnect in 12 communal suites outfitted with 65 beds. A collective kitchen is nothing new, but a coworking space speaks to the times and clientele. Other perks include a bar and restaurant, and an indoor stage with nightly events, all tucked within the rough limestone walls of a once-railroader hotel from 1890 and an adjacent midcentury warehouse. Local owners Michael Dickson, Antonio Madrid, and Will Steakley tasked local designers Joel Mozersky and design studio’s Jared Haas with dreaming up an American tramp-art concept evident in the intricate woodwork that covers the front of the bar and some of the ceiling and door-trim treatments. “Tramp art was done by travelers, vagabonds, and nomadic workers who came into Austin by rail to work in the 1800s,” explains Dickson. “They took discarded objects—like crates and cigar boxes—and carved them into really beautiful pieces.” In guestrooms, red privacy curtains hang along handcrafted bunks hewn from Douglas fir, and ornate ruby-hued rugs contrast white oak floors. Though Native recently opened, “our intent is to expand this concept as quickly as we can,” says Dickson, who plans to keep future projects hyper-local, appealing to both travelers and local residents alike.

Long Story Short
Yeddalin relaxed than Prague, Olomouc—located two hours by train from the capital city in Czechia’s Moravia province—is filled with students and operates at a decidedly slower pace. Smack in its historical center, Locatelli’s Bastion is a horseshoe-shaped former 17th-century fort-turned-military base that has been recently repurposed as a 56-bed hostel and café with a garden. Over the two-year process, Prague-based designer Denisa Strmisková studiously worked to flesh out the main idea: “To highlight the historical genius loci with appropriate adjustments to enrich it with contemporary design,” she says. To bring perspective to the relatively large space, which spreads over nearly 11,000 square feet and features arched corridors 985 feet long in some places (hence the property’s name), “I used small details that can provide a pleasant experience or a surprise for the visitors,” she says, such as German-made rotary switches from the 1930s; custom black water fixtures; simple materials like wood, metal, and concrete highlighted with soft pastel colors; and fine black lines that draw accents through the space via custom furniture pieces and other details.
Strmisková’s background in scenography inspired her approach to lighting the public spaces, which she identifies as one of the project’s biggest challenges. “The aim was to get the light into the building unobtrusively, but at the same time fill the functional requirements,” she explains, pointing to simple lines of soft luminous strips that shine onto surfaces and highlight the corridors’ bright white plaster arches. “The purity of the space itself was maintained, while minimizing any distracting elements,” she adds.

The minimalist black and white palette with pink and blue notes continues in comfortable dorm and private rooms—where functionality and space were more important than cramming as many bunks in the area as possible, Strmisková says. Throw pillows are stamped with Long Story Short’s logo, based on the building’s horseshoe shape and designed by Prague-based Studio Kosatka, while additional furniture in the rooms (and public areas) is a mix of mostly Czech vintage pieces from the 1950s through ’70s. “The simple shapes let the beauty of the space stand out,” says Strmisková. “Important for me was to understand and highlight its merits and to sensitively combine it with my own concept.”

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