Program: Hostel in the Historic Center of Budapest
Our team was commissioned to transform a 204 sqm flat into a hostel located on the second floor of a historic apartment building in downtown Budapest. Three rooms were planned, all of which to be equipped with private bathrooms. In addition to these a common kitchen and dining area were to be placed in the flat. Each room was requested to be able to operate as communal dormitories for individual travelers as well as private apartments for groups with four to eight members traveling together.
Challenge: How to Produce Private Space Instead of Bunkbeds?
The conventional experience of a hostel dormitory is a room full of bunkbeds. Bunkbeds are the physical manifestation of an economic strategy that aims at dividing rentable space to the smallest possible portions both horizontally and vertically. The financially optimal quantity of rentable units could be achieved with standard bunkbeds, however the growing competition on the hostel market is continuously pushing owners towards the improvement of qualitative properties as well including privacy, usability and visitor experience while remaining a budget-oriented accommodation. As designers we needed to find out how these demands can be served through the formation of the physical environment. The main challenge for us was to surpass the conventional notion of a dormitory room: Instead of regarding it as a room furnished with beds we wanted to come up with an architectural intervention into the given setting that provides private living spaces for every tenant. We didn’t want to make custom-made furniture, but custom-made private spaces.
A Structure of Living Cabins: An Alternative Way of Thinking About the Hostel Dormitory
We designed a two-storey construction for each room, within which enclosed micro living cabins are placed: Every cabin is equipped with two beds, storage space, lighting and plugs. Textile panels installed at the front of the cabins penetrate natural light from the outside while enhance privacy for the one inside by blocking visual connection with the rest of the room. Even in case of full occupancy guests hardly perceive the presence of each other and they don’t have the experience of a densely populated accommodation.
Our intervention needed to adapt to the quickly changing demands of the lodging sector of Budapest: When a room operate as a private apartment instead of a shared dormitory the ground floor of the construction can be transformed into a common living room. It is also possible that in a few years the rooms need to serve a completely different type of use: Preparing for the unknown future, the structure is built up only with screwed joints that makes simple assembly, disassembly and reuse possible.
While some decades ago hostels were thought in general as the type of accommodation only for a special ‘world-traveler’ backpacker subculture, nowadays we live in an era when cheap and fast travel is becoming accessible and attractive for a wider and rapidly growing part of the world’s population: As a result we do need to continuously rethink our notions and demount our conventions about the spaces of travel.