The letter ‘Y’ is the shape of a new youth hostel in Bayreuth, Germany, designed by award-winning international architects LAVA for the Bavarian Youth Hostel Association.


Laboratory for Visionary Architecture [LAVA] Chris Bosse, Tobias Wallisser, Alexander Rieck
Berlin – Stuttgart – Sydney – Shanghai
NAME OF PROJECT: Bayreuth Youth Hostel
LOCATION: Bayreuth, Germany
Bavarian Youth Hostel Association, Bavaria (DJH Bayern)
STATUS: Detail Design (LPH 4)
SIZE: 3,400 sq m

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We are in the designer age when Gen Y travellers want funky design, a special identity, access to online and community, and unique experiences, not just a clean bed and shower.

LAVA’s design is a yardstick for the sports hostel of the future through innovative spatial configurations, sustainability at environmental, and structural and social levels, and integrated sporting facilities.

LAVA chose the ‘Y’ shape, because it generates a connective and beautiful central space offering expansive views and multiple openings to the sport fields and gardens.

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The central atrium is a hub for offline and online entertainment, interaction and communication. Here, a skylight provides natural daylight to a central amphitheatre that connects the different levels, whilst horizontal and diagonal sightlines direct guests to different building functions. Reception, seminar rooms, bistro, kitchen, seminar rooms, sports and game facilities are spread out over two floors and connected to each other via the central atrium.

It’s all about intelligent organisation, making it easy to find things, connect, socialise, creating a stage for individual and group activities.

It may be budget accommodation but this integrated concept goes beyond the hostel motto ‘experience community’ to ‘experience the unexpected’ – its not like the hostel we know!

Other key features include:

  • Room walls are highly flexible with contemporary modular ‘built-in furniture’ elements accommodating washrooms and bed
  • Wood, concrete floors and ceilings create an industrial robustness with brightly coloured yellow infills and strong graphics.
  • A whole wheelchair basketball team can stay here! It’s the prototype of a barrier-free building, with rooms, grounds and sports fields all wheelchair

The city of Bayreuth chose the Bavarian Youth Hostel Association and LAVA’s design for the new 180-bed hostel, following LAVA’s successful remodelling of their 1930s Berchtesgaden, Germany’s first designer hostel. Bayreuth caters for active and sports guests. Construction starts in early 2015.

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LAVA won the international competition to design the new 180-bed youth hostel in Bayreuth, Germany. This followed the development of new architectural guidelines by the Bavarian Youth Hostel Association to redefine their hostels to meet contemporary expectations. Germany’s first ‘designer youth hostel’, designed by LAVA, was the renovation of the youth hostel in Berchtesgaden completed in 2011. The Association’s hostels each have a different focus and Bayreuth caters for physically active guests. Construction starts in early 2015.


LAVA chose the letter ‘Y’ shape because the geometry creates a building shape that interweaves interior and exterior space. It offers views to three directions, creates natural openings to the sport fields, terraces and gardens, which find their place in between the longer parts of the building. Inside and outside merge.

The designer age of the 21st century means young travellers and backpackers want funky design, a special identity, community and unique experiences, not just a clean bed and shower.

Bayreuth provides a stunning location and a unique opportunity to develop a prototype of a new sports hostel, a benchmark, that further develops the traditional hostel through innovative spatial configurations, sustainability at environmental, structural and social levels and integrated sporting facilities directly adjacent to the building: a place that invites active use and relaxation.

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The Y shape also creates a central atrium, a hub for offline as well as online interaction, a meeting space that provides entertainment, interaction, comfort and communication. An amphitheatre in the middle connects the different levels in a playful way. A skylight provides natural daylight whilst horizontal and diagonal sightlines direct guests to different functions in the building such as reception, seminar rooms, dining, kitchen, spread out over two floors and connected to each other via this central atrium.

Each wing of the Y has access to the exterior at the end, and many ‘loops’ combining inside and outside come together at the central point of the Y. The wider arm houses public functions: kitchen and canteen on ground level, seminar rooms on first floor; and both are connected via the hall and stairs and have direct access to outside.

The visionary design is marked by intelligent organisation (easy to find things, get in contact, spend time together, connect inside to outside activities, rooms become viewing spots for sport activities). This integrated concept fulfils the hostel motto: ‘experience community’ and goes beyond it: ‘experience the unexpected’ – not the youth hostel as people know it. It’s this organisation – creating a stage for activities – separating individual from group spaces but bringing people together in

an open internal landscape that is unique. This is budget accommodation, but it offers spatial fluidity and other spatial experiences not available even in expensive hotels.

Sports fields, adventure playgrounds and volleyball terraces are complemented by local vegetation. A grand staircase doubling as an amphitheatre is used for cultural events such as outdoor movie screenings and theatre performances.

The fluid structure is integrated into the landscape, with contemporary materials and a ‘no frills’ interior – a powerful place for active people.



Sustainability is environmental, as well as social and structural.

The innovative structural and social organisation creates a stage for activities, separating individual from group spaces, but bringing together people in an open internal landscape.

The room typology is new – LAVA designed a highly flexible modular wooden wall system with modular contemporary custom built-in furniture accommodating washrooms and bed niches. Individual rooms feature concrete floors and ceilings, niches with beds on either side, integration of furniture in the walls. Highly flexible walls between the rooms in the wings can be replaced. These separation walls are fabricated as modular ‘furniture’ elements.

Environmental sustainability includes the application of local materials, highly insulated facades and the use of renewable energy.


Wood, concrete floors and ceilings create an industrial robustness with bright infills of yellow and green on ceilings and floors, black and white neutral areas and strong graphics. It is an unusual mix of concrete slabs and wooden supports.

The geometry of the wooden roof is unique as the upper beams follow the curves of the roof and the lower ones follow the straight spacing of the rooms resulting in a three-dimensional truss system visible in the central part of the building.

Colour patterns on ceilings and floors make reference to sports activities or natural elements like tree canopies.

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This is a prototype of a ‘barrier-free’ building, a hostel suitable for disabled sports teams – where else could a wheelchair basketball team find accommodation? All rooms are accessible by lift or ramps, ‘universal’ bathroom sinks and the grounds and sports fields are wheelchair accessible. Two thirds of the rooms on the ground floor have special bathrooms suitable for wheelchairs.


Chris Bosse, Tobias Wallisser and Alexander Rieck founded LAVA in 2007. This international network uses nature’s geometries, the latest research and technology to design innovative residential, commercial, sports and cultural buildings.

The award-winning practice has major government and commercial clients across the globe, won numerous international competitions and awards, their projects are published widely, and directors lecture worldwide.

Behind their success is Man. Nature. Technology. LAVA combines digital workflow, nature’s structural principles and the latest digital fabrication technologies to build MORE WITH LESS: more (architecture) with less (material/energy/time/cost).

Geometries in nature (snowflakes, spider webs, soap bubbles) are the basis of their building typologies and structures – they create both efficiency and beauty.


LAVA – Chris Bosse, Tobias Wallisser, Alexander Rieck

Julian Fahrenkamp, Nicola Schunter, Paula Gonzalez, Jan Kozerski, Elise Elsacker, Myung Lee; Competition team: Sebastian Schott, Stephan Albrecht, Stefanie Pesel


Architects (cost, planning): Wenzel+Wenzel Structure: Engelsmann Peters, Stuttgart/Graz Mechanical engineering: IBT PAN, Berlin

Fire and Building Physics: Bauart, München Landscape: IB Riede, Nürnberg

Kitchen: b.o.b. IMAGE CREDITS LAVA


Rethinking The Future (RTF) is a Global Platform for Architecture and Design. RTF through more than 100 countries around the world provides an interactive platform of highest standard acknowledging the projects among creative and influential industry professionals.

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