image © 曹璞 曹有涛
A group of youngsters came up with the idea to renovate some empty houses of Hutong yard into hostel. The yard was already occupied by many small kitchens built by the neighbors, stashed and parked bicycles, as well as piles of random junk，leaving a tiny space barely to walk through. This is nowadays the common situation of the living environment in Beijing’s Hutong yard.
The arrival of the young people would serve to further congest the yard, so we needed to find a way to live peacefully with the neighbours.
Therefore this design chooses to ‘given back”’ and be humble by using a set of sliding walls that each houses a bed, desk, and door, and serves to continuously change the proportion of indoor and outdoor space accordingly based on the current need. As such, when there are not many guests at the hostel, some space can be given back to the yard by sliding the doors around to “compensate” for the area already occupied by the kitchens, and when the hostel is full there is still enough space to accommodate all guests. This will create breathing space in the chaotic Hutong yard life.
The “given back” space beneath the roof can be used as a public leisure area， like a tea table，a card room or a bar, in addition to a space for the neighbors to store their bicycles.
On a basis of endless cycles of negotiation with neighbors，the siting of the prototype was as difficult as its construction. Many interesting stories happened during the whole process, including the change of the construction site, to be forced to stop work and even modify the original design due to sick，complaining and uncooperative neighbours.
Now the construction of the prototype is accomplished, This 12-square-meter hostel could give a maximum of 5 square meters to the yard for temporary use. One of the neighbors has happily agreed to use this place for calligraphy painting during the daytime. Moreover，we also built a number of lockers for those who need to put things away.
Humble Hostel is a “Darshilar Pilot” project exhibited during Beijing International Design Week. The first group of youngsters may live inside and the designer will tell you the story following the last year. The “given back” space will be for humble hostel project exhibition and afternoon tea. We invite all to come here and chat with us about any other possibility for this tiny “given back” space .
After that，we will keep on the hostel try-out，make questionaries and collect data for further replication and system perfection. With more “Humble hostels” being built up，more space will be given back to the Hutong yard. The aging community could also be infused with health and vibrant neighborhood relations.