Conversion of an abandoned barn into an hostel/bar/club. Born during pandemic times, the project is strikingly simple, creating light and spacious environments with mezzanine levels and double height spaces. All the furniture was designed by RCAA to be fully modular, dismountable and adaptable to future changes in use.
The project is an adaptive reuse of an existing farm building that had been previously partially converted into offices and then abandoned mid-works. Our client wanted to transform it into a hostel, club and co-working space.
The location of the building on the outskirts of the city of Treviso, if somewhat unappealing, was perfect because of its proximity to the local airport, which is within walking distance. The unsympathetic context called for the creation of interesting spaces within, despite the requirement for maximisation of the number of beds and sufficient technical/ancillary spaces.
The building was an empty shell, with two open plan storeys and a mezzanine level left with no finishes. As we were working on the concept, the pandemic hit. So for the following 12 months it was impossible to determine if, when and how we would have started travelling again. Neither we nor the clients knew in which form this hostel would be allowed to open, but the go-ahead was given nevertheless.
We took this uncertainty as a starting point for the design. We wanted to design a place that could fully serve its intended purpose, but that could be also converted into something else with minimal effort. Resilience and adaptability.
We erected as few partitions as possible and kept all the wet functions (bathrooms, kitchens etc) in the existing positions, as well as maximising the use of peripheral and exposed M&E. This way we not only kept the budget under control but created the possibility for the internal layout to be rearranged, wholly or in parts, without requiring major demolitions.
We used the same floor finish throughout the building. We used a bright yellow tint to unify and light up the spaces, a magic carpet of sorts that is the real protagonist of the interiors. This was spaces could be rearranged and subdivided without the need for re-paving, and economy of scale again meant significant savings.
In order to do this, we chose to use industrial-grade resin, which is mechanically resistant, waterproof and can withstand professional cleaning products.
The golden-yellow tint was chosen for its warm character, for the quality of light it brings and for its connection to the gold used in the flag of the one Republic of Venice, which is still the emblem of the Region. It is the only colour used throughout the building, as a unifying gesture.
The furniture too is custom-designed to be fully modular. The lockers can be rearranged in any number, bolted together to create partitions or strung in any form, like lego bricks. The same goes for the shelving units, which can be hung from the walls or stacked up to create bookshelves.
The bed structures can be arranged into single, double or bunk beds, and each component (base, structure, screens, integrated reading light, even the number tag) can be detached to be cleaned or substituted.
The tables can be split into desks, coupled to accommodate small or large groups. They can also be fixed to the perimeter walls of the main bar to free the central space.
The reception desk, the info point and the canteen furniture can all be taken apart, be divided into smaller pieces and used for different functions.
The soft seating, designed in collaboration with studio Finemateria, is made of simple shapes carved out of special foam. Incredibly light, they can be stacked up or bunched together to create different lounging arrangements by the guests themselves.
All of the furniture elements were custom-designed and produced locally, by companies within a 25 km radius. And they are all made of steel and finished with industrial-grade powder-coating to be easily cleaned, something which was a must in Covid times.
The lighting system is based on off-the-shelf components, with all externally routed cables, that again can be rearranged with minimal effort and no demolitions. The ventilation system too is external and can be easily rerouted.
Spatially we took advantage of this essential approach and emphasised the qualities of the existing space: large and airy, with views of the surrounding countryside. The larger rooms have double-height spaces, crisscrossed by the lighting and the ventilation system. The internal spaces are all oriented towards the North, to maximise diffuse light and concentrate the views onto the hostel’s park, rather than the nearby highway flyover. A few, carefully placed circular holes puncture the internal walls, establishing visual connections between the different spaces.
The layout works by establishing different levels of privacy: the park, the large hall of the bar/restaurant, the dormitory rooms, each with its communal area for the guest, separated from the beds, and the beds themselves which are partially screened to allow for some personal privacy.