Hostel Takeover: Bergmeyer converts an aging industrial building in Boston into a boutique-style lodging destination for Hostelling International.
By Matthew Hall
Bergmeyer Associates Inc. had never worked on a hostel before. That did not deter the architecture/interior design firm from bidding to create a new, high-profile hostel within the confines of a historic industrial building in its hometown of Boston.
“We have a long history of doing adaptive-reuse projects, bringing new uses such as affordable housing or student residences to old industrial or warehouse buildings,” says Mike Davis, Bergmeyer’s principal-in-charge of the project. “We were also very experienced with projects of this size and working in Boston.”
Those attributes got Bergmeyer onto the short list of firms in the running for the commission from Hostelling International (HI), which was replacing its existing locale in downtown Boston with a larger space in the Dill Building, a six-story, 124-year-old former factory. To win the work, Bergmeyer made the strategic decision to team up with Stegman + Associates, an architecture firm that was also a finalist for the project.
“That firm’s owner, Janet Stegman, had previously worked with Hostelling International on a smaller renovation project, so she knew the client and the project type,” Davis notes. “We teamed up with Janet and were awarded the project.”
HI, a non-profit association consisting of more than 4,000 member hostels worldwide, had an ambitious agenda for its new Boston site. First and foremost, the group’s officials wanted the hostel’s design to be highly sustainable in order to appeal to its target market of eco-conscious travelers. That translated into the installation of energy-efficient windows and the use of reclaimed materials, including beams from the building for its wood tables and stair treads. (The project is seeking LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council—a process the designers expect to be completed by the end of the year. Another hostel, The Crash Pad in Chattanooga, Tenn., recently became the first hostel in the U.S. to attain LEED status, and the first in the world to achieve Platinum-level certification.)
Beyond being eco-friendly, Davis says HI wanted its new locale to attract more U.S.-based travelers—many of whom are still unfamiliar and/or uncomfortable with the communal-style accommodations at hostels—without alienating overseas guests who have long patronized such lodgings. To pull off that balancing act, he says, “the design of the new Boston hostel needed to be of a much higher quality, and considerably more interesting and memorable, than their previous facility. That meant we worked to make the hostel feel a bit more ‘boutique’—youthful but not trendy, blending a rough, industrial aesthetic with a clean, modern palette.”
That strategy is on prominent display in the HI hostel’s lobby. “In the traditional hostel model, only paying guests had access to spaces beyond a small lobby and security desk,” Davis notes. “In our design, the first floor lobby, coffee bar and meeting room are all publicly accessible and very visible from the building’s storefront windows.”
Located on the second floor are the hostel’s kitchen area, which features a gleaming set of stainless-steel appliances and flexible seating options to encourage interaction, along with a library, game room and Internet-access room. These guest-only amenities are accessed by a main stairway whose walls are lined with painted panels bearing a series of engraved travel-related quotations and glass-encased artifacts and mementos from other HI hostels around the world.
Housed within the building’s third through sixth floors are the hostel’s 99 guest rooms, which have a total of 484 beds. “As this is an adaptive-reuse project, there are many different room types,” Davis says. “However, the two most typical layouts are a six-bed room with three bunk-beds and a more private configuration featuring a single bed over a double.”
As for the guest bathrooms, Davis notes that hostels have traditionally featured single, so-called “gang” bathrooms on each floor. “Many travelers, especially those from the U.S., find that layout unappealing, so we installed 23 domestic-style, three-fixture bathrooms on each floor, most of which are not ‘en suite’ but accessed from the corridors and available to any guest,” he says.
Deborah Ruhe, executive director of HI’s U.S. operations, said her group is pleased with the results of Bergmeyer’s efforts. “The design team helped us achieve our goals not only for sustainable design, but also for a beautifully designed facility that raises the profile of hostelling by creating an urban flagship with new design thinking, more publicly oriented spaces and a greater visibility in Boston’s cultural community.”
Owner: Hostelling International
Architect/Interior Designer: Bergmeyer Associates Inc.
Associate Architect: Stegman + Associates
General Contractor: Suffolk Construction
Bath Fixtures: Symmons, Porcher, American Standard
Fabrics: Architex, CF Stinson, Maharam
Fireplace: Modern Spark
Floor Coverings and Materials: Bentley Prince Street, FLOR, Masland Contract, Shaw
Furniture: Furniture Concepts, West Elm, New England Seating, BluDot, Southern Aluminum
Kitchen Stainless Steel: Boston Showcase
Lighting: Designtex Surface Imaging, Cooper Lighting, CB2, Birchwood Lighting, Philips ALKCO
Lockers: Riverbend Furniture Co.
Reception/Dining Counters: Caesar Stone
Seating: Emeco, KI, Union Office Interiors
Signage: Advanced Signing
Tables: Dietrich Woodworking
Wall Coverings and Materials: Designtex Surface Imaging, Dal-Tile, Sonny’s Glass Tinting
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