Ar. Madhav Joshi, Madhav Joshi & Associates won the prestigious IIA Awards for Excellence in Architecture 2018 for Backpackers’ Hostel, Panchgani, in the ‘Hospitality and Recreation’ category. The hostel for backpackers is situated near a hill station Panchgani, the strawberry capital of India in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra. The design has evolved in response to the need for backpackers (18 to 40 years of age) for a safe, comfortable and hygienic place to stay at a scenic location while travelling on a shoestring budget. Since its opening last year, this place has been re-visited by many, in different seasons for experiencing the sheer joy it offers through its design setting. With valley views to all and cascading outdoor spaces, it remains a sought after destination among millennials with an average 90 percent occupancy.
Structural properties of the shipping containers are fully exploited to obtain maximum habitable space with minimum ground contact by precariously balancing the ensemble of masses; much like the Sherpa carries loads while negotiating the narrow traversing routes on the Himalayan slopes. The hostel facility is provided with well-integrated mechanical, electrical and plumbing services with ease of operational maintenance.
The unstable site slope was held together by a tree or two at places but largely had to be retained by narrow terraces, much like the paddy fields along hill slopes, to create usable spaces in a stepped manner to place narrow and long footprints of the containers parallel to the slope, leaving the in-between spaces of this hamlet for traversing and for the community and inducing the least impact on the local ecology. The newfound modern idiom of architecture suits the culture of its own typology. It is a replicable prototype yet rooted in its context.
Urban dis-connect is the purpose of this typology. Recognised as a social need, the design creates an environment amidst nature for young urban travellers seeking solitude, personal time with soul mates or to make new friends. In the conventional sense of ‘Social Responsibility,’ this place has drawn upon local skills and human resources for its making and continues to do so in the operational phase by sourcing locally grown organic produce, training the rural youth and women to be part of the hospitality activities of this place. The architecture of this place has encouraged local artists to integrate their art to narrate regional stories and to depict themes for the backpackers.