The year 2009 marked 75 years since hostels were first introduced in the United States. Despite its long existence in the country, the concept of hostelling is still greatly misunderstood by the public, or their existence throughout American communities is simply unknown to the public. This project reintroduces the hostel to Americans in a new light, with the goal to integrate them into American culture and demonstrate that hostels
are more than merely budget accommodations. Hostels allow independent travelers to see the world uniquely and share ideas and experiences with fellow travelers along the way.
It was crucial to trace the course of hostelling history in America in order to understand its current situation and to formulate solutions to its current social marginality
problem. Understanding hostelling origins, the evolution of its facilities and culture, and the current patterns of its participants in comparison to the past was an additionally
important process. Hostelling is not a widely studied subject, thus publications were limited, and it became important to utilize news articles, online forums, as well as other sources that presented a variety of positions. Successful hostels outside of the US were also studied to help determine the direction for the new American hostel.
Through this research, it was concluded that the stunted growth of hostelling culture in America was due to the misguidance of the national organization that brought
hostelling to America. Now known as Hostelling International USA, the organization still dominates the US hostelling market today. Although inherent problems have been identified and efforts have been made to improve the situation, American hostels still remain far behind their foreign counterparts. However, research shows that Americans have a far less guarded approach to hostelling abroad – in fact, a significant number of
the world’s “backpackers”, the group most associated with hostels, are American travelers. This leads to the conclusion that there is indeed a great opportunity for
popularizing domestic hostels among Americans, as well as elevating their status in the international market.
As this project deals with the task of changing the way Americans think about hostels, it is important to present the hostel prominently while maintaining continuity with
the cultural context of its neighborhood, the Greater U Street neighborhood in Washington, DC. In the aftermaths of the catastrophic 1968 race riots, this once vibrant neighborhood was left abandoned for a time, but it has seen major transformations in recent decades and is now one of the most popular neighborhoods in DC. Repurposing standard shipping containers as building blocks, the hostel will be developed on an infill space to help complete the community fabric and continue its revitalization process while keeping construction costs down.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree of Masters of Arts
Corcoran College of Art + Design (Washington, D.C.)
Masters Theses from the Corcoran College of Art + Design
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