Berchtesgaden Youth Hostel – Haus Untersberg / by LAVA

Modernisation of the Berchtesgaden Youth Hostel– Design meets Adventure: Haus Untersberg – now open

Berchtesgaden Youth Hostel– Haus Untersberg / by LAVA
© Robert Pupeter

LAVA’s reinterpretation of an existing youth hostel has resulted in a completely new type of space. The transformation of the youth hostel is underway! The design is all about the individuality of spaces – LAVA achieved this by the clever reorganisation of the existing volume resulting in different types of bedrooms. And a sustainable makeover includes low energy facade, floor heating, the installation of bimass pellet heating system and the use of local materials and craftsmanship. LAVA has set new precedents for future hostel guests with:

  • Multi-purpose areas, previously unknown in this type of accommodation
  • Authentic spatial features based on the location and the transformation of an historic building
  • Built-in furniture and integrated storage avoids the barracks-style appearance of the typical youth hostel.
  • The space is organised into visually coherent zones, with just a few key interventions.
Berchtesgaden Youth Hostel– Haus Untersberg / by LAVA
© Robert Pupeter

Recent developments in the hotel sector reveal an increasing trend towards the 5-star luxury segment on one hand, and on the other, the growing appeal of the individually designed basic hotel.

LAVA’s study found that the success of these hotel typologies in urban areas is based on a return to simple yet clearly defined concepts, combined with quality elements, materials, and furniture with spaces that stimulate activity, group interaction, and a sense of community.

Berchtesgaden Youth Hostel– Haus Untersberg / by LAVA
© Robert Pupeter

Alexander Rieck, LAVA director, said: ’Our study of hostel typologies found that the originality of the surroundings and the uniqueness of the experience creates an authentic concept’.

The Berchtesgaden Youth Hostel master plan allocates specific activities to specific building areas within the overall complex, and a reordering of function within an existing structural fabric.

The design of one building in the hostel, the Haus Untersberg, optimises contemporary requirements for family or group usage within this concept. The project’s first phase entailed the modernisation of this building, and was targeted at families. The existing room structure was opened up to facilitate higher quality rooms, each with it’s own bathroom.

Berchtesgaden Youth Hostel– Haus Untersberg / by LAVA
© Robert Pupeter

As youth hostels boast a wide range of typologies ranging from hut to castle standardizing would be the wrong approach and so LAVA opted for creating different bedrooms using the old structure in different ways. This transformation of the old spaces includes a wooden ceiling of the old restaurant at ground floor made visible in the new rooms and unused space under the attic becomes a mezzanine level with additional beds open to the spaces below.
Tobias Wallisser, LAVA director, said: ‘the blending, overlapping and interlinking of different spheres influences society today. This constantly evolving process is what gives LAVA’s Hostel Berchtesgaden form and shape by providing flexible but highly recognisable spaces. A special quality of comfort is achieved by integrating simple and efficient technology’.

Ease of movement within each room is complemented by ample baggage storage and locker facilities. Built-in furniture zones enhance the look of each room, giving a contemporary twist to such furnishings as a bunk bed, which transforms into a cocoon.

These built-in zones also link internal parts of the building with the external – connections to the surrounding landscape are provided through large, panoramic “window boxes”, which cantilever from the façade and act as seating, table areas, viewing platforms and relaxation elements.

Berchtesgaden Youth Hostel– Haus Untersberg / by LAVA

Throughout the building there is a recurring reinterpretation of specific elements – for example the original flag wall in the entrance foyer, featuring real flags, is now adorned with stripes of colour within which the national flag of each European country can be identified.

These strong bright colours contrast with the natural, regionally sourced materials, which feature quality fitting and meticulous workmanship for facades and furnishings. Particular attention was also paid to the reduction of overall energy usage resulting in a highly efficient building.

Chris Bosse, LAVA director, added: ’The core experience is that of authenticity and simplicity within the hostel’.

This pilot project with the German Youth Hostel Association in Bavaria is located to the south east of Munich. LAVA won the competition for the redesign in 2009. The other buildings in the Berchtesgaden Youth Hostel will be transformed over the next few years.

Further projects in other locations in Bavaria are currently being planned.

Berchtesgaden Youth Hostel– Haus Untersberg / by LAVA
© Robert Pupeter

LAVA – Chris Bosse, Tobias Wallisser, Alexander Rieck
LAVA (Laboratory for Visionary Architecture) was founded in 2007. The directors, Chris Bosse, Tobias Wallisser und Alexander Rieck, have designed projects such as the city centre plan for the CO²-neutral Masdar City, the Michael Schumacher Tower in Abu Dhabi and Future-Hotel-Prototypes in Duisburg. Currently, LAVA is involved in a new university master plan in Riad, Saudi Arabia.

Tobias Wallisser is Professor for Innovative Construction and Spatial Concepts at the State Academy of Fine Arts, Stuttgart. As an associate architect at UNStudio, Amsterdam, he was responsible for the planning of the Stuttgart Mercedes-Benz Museum. Chris Bosse, as an associate architect at PTW Architects in Sydney, led the team that worked on the Watercube swimming pool of the Beijing Olympics. Both of these projects set new standards in the field of computer-based drafting. Alexander Rieck has been working for the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart for over ten years and coordinates a range of inter-institutional architectural activities, including the research project Fucon.

Project Leader: Sebastian Schott; Team Members: Sirri El Jundi, Kirk Weisgerber, Stephan Markus Albrecht, Bum Suk Ko, Yohhei Kawasaki, Patrick Lorenz, Christina Pellicier, Nicola Schunter

Wenzel + Wenzel Architekten, Stuttgart/München

Construction Site Management
Schulze Dinter Architekten, Berchtesgaden

Civil Engineering
Zahn Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH, Traunreut

Technical Project Manager
PGT Planungsgruppe Technik, Prien am Chiemsee

Heating, Ventilation, Sanitary
Ludwig Ingenieurgesellschaft für Technische Gebäudeausrüstung mbH, Traunstein

Fire Protection
Ingenieurbüro Kade, Eichenau

Health and Safety
Dipl.- Ing (FH) Baumann; Ingenieurbüro für Bauwesen, Bad Reichenhall

PHOTO CREDITS: Robert Pupeter

LAVA – Laboratory for Visionary Architecture
Chris Bosse, Tobias Wallisser, Alexander Rieck
Stuttgart – Sydney – Shanghai

Berchtesgaden Youth Hostel– Haus Untersberg

Berchtesgaden, Germany


Deutsches Jugendherbergswerk, Landesverband Bayern e.V., München


1.500 m2; 91 beds


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