International case study: YHA London

YHA invites London's youths with location specific detailing.

Youth Hostels Association, ANALYSIS, Design

YHA invites London's youths with location specific detailing.

In 2006, Britain's Youth Hostels Association (YHA) launched a new strategy to reach more young people in the form of interior concepts. As part of an overall UK £13.5 million revamp, YHA employed Blacksheep to translate its ideas into reality.

"As well as ensuring that travelers staying in YHA accommodation are made aware of the brand, the design had to reflect the character of each property,"? said Duncan Simpson the head of communications, YHA.

The interior concepts for hostels throughout England and Wales were grouped according to type, determined by location and target customer.

The first outcome of the collaboration is YHA London Central, a 'City'location aimed at young, independent travelers.

The initial design brief was to create a robust and contemporary interiors concept for all the hostel's social spaces on the ground and lower-ground floor - including the entrance lobby. The scheme had to incorporate both YHA as well as a use of environmental graphics depicting its location.

"These schemes are all about design and being able to make an impact, no matter what the budget,"said Kylie Holton of Blacksheep, the client coordinator. "This is a place where young people can come to stay in the centre of the city. We thought it should be perfectly possible to offer them a fun and stimulating environment without sacrificing style."

Guests enter the new Bolsover Street site via a main entrance lobby where a large feature lighting draws guests in and a huge-scale backlit London tube map on the right wall of the lobby announces the super sized graphic treatments of the site's location-specific interior.

The adjacent wall is painted a bright red, and the same is done on a number of walls throughout the building, allowing the colour red to become associated with way finding.

The main reception to the left of the lobby introduces a dining / bar / lounge space. A Ceiling-to-floor glazed facade allows the social area and reception lobby to be seen from the street.

Following on from the reception, freestanding dining tables and stools by Moooi, and red and white specially created seating from Bourne Furniture are situated in the deli and bar areas. High chairs for both the bar/deli and WiFi areas in green and yellow, also by Bourne Furniture, echo the dining chair designs.

Lighting plays a major role in the creation of an urban atmosphere as well as further illuminating the broad spectrum of colours used for many of the furnishings in the internet station, WiFi and dining areas.

Three huge-scale (1.8m wide) overhead silver feature lights designed by Peters Design in Germany, highlight the bright seating in the space. While, over the bar, eight black pendant lights hang from the ceiling, along with a further four with green interiors over the reception desk. Both pendants were sourced from Lighting Direct.

The lounge area to the rear of the space, with seating in bright, contemporary colours including red, purple and orange, also includes a library wall area. Here, large hanging mirrors to people-watch are incorporated into the design, as well as a series of TV screens, one of which masquerades as a mirror.

"It was very important for the scheme to design this area - and the whole space - to encourage social interaction at all times,"? commented Jayne Furniss, lead designer of the Bolsolver Street scheme, Blacksheep. "The sofas are extra large with very solid arms, so that people can cluster around them easily. The coffee tables are notably large too, with tub seating around them so that groups of people can easily fit. The same feel applies to the continuous reception / deli / bar, with no single area ever feeling in any way dislocated."

In addition, the space is open 24-hours for guests, but the deli and bar areas close at night. "It was important that these parts of the offer could be shut down and secured, without making the space look as uninviting as a traditional shutter roll might,"? said Jayne Furniss.

Blacksheep therefore, designed a night-time mesh for the bar and deli servery cupboard fronts, with down lights so that the contents of the cupboards are still visible. The tops of the cupboards have hinged doors so that when they open the deli area has a sense of enclosure.

Flooring, although simple, has a very contemporary feel in a silver finished, timber effect vinyl by Polyrey. The same company also supplied Blacksheep with the marble-effect vinyl used in the reception area.

Adding to brightly coloured furnishings, path-finding walls, artistic lighting and contemporary flooring, the most significant aspect to the YHA Central London is the location-specific detailing Blacksheep integrated throughout the entire interior space. Features including a London-themed graphic on the wall of the WiFi area showing phone boxes, Oxford Street road signs, and an entire wall dedicated to London postcards, and other famous cities across the world can be found on the lower ground floor.

Graphics is the key theme running throughout the building, becoming the welcoming feature of every room. A world map with magnets and a series of chalk boards (four on the ground floor and one on the lower-ground) was designed specifically for people to leave messages, staff to put up notices - or for general self-expression. Blacksheep also designed a super-sized series of icons to be used for the ground floor public toilet facilities.

"YHA is pleased with the look and feel that has been achieved at London Central and eagerly looks forward to further schemes,"? commented Duncan Simpson of YHA. "Working with Blacksheep, we will be rolling out many new concepts for social spaces, emphasising the informal sociability we offer - a key strength of the brand."

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