THE COMMUNAL NIDUS - Youth Hostel & Recreation Center

Chamin Kalubowila
City School of Architecture (CSA), Colombo
Sri Lanka

Project idea

Youth and place making is an important aspect which defines youth participation and values in a community. By incorporating youth in youth friendly spaces, the young generation can feel like they have investment in their community and they can develop a strong sense of ownership, stewardship, respect and a great sense of pride.

In identifying the obstacles and challenges faced by youth, it is important to recommend measures at the community and regional levels to create an optimal environment in which youth empowerment can be promoted.

Project Vision – Producing a multi-talented & united Youth for a fruitful society.
Project Mission – Providing hygienic & higher standards of accommodation & providing a common ground for Youth to build up relationships, life skills & experiences.

The project aims to respond to a contextual issue of disconnected diversities of youth, & their disconnection with social activities, to understand the broader social change, by evoking the necessity to know how youth contribute to societal transformation, & how external experiences influence to enrich their lives.

The project been located in close proximity to many of the higher educational institutes of the area, creates a large footfall of youth groups. The lack of public spaces & interactive spaces within the context depletes the opportunity for the youth to socialize with each other, resulting a disconnected youth population. The lack of gratifying accommodation was also identified as a key issue for the young community seeking education & employment in this area. Thus, the project saw the necessity of providing safe places for living, & providing a platform for youth where they can unite together, freely express themselves, interact with different personals, through physical & virtual interactive & recreational spaces. Concurrently, it advances their creativity, innovation & social skills, which instigates a connectivity in the disconnected diversities. Through the creation of youth friendly spaces, the project envisions a positive youth empowerment, while showcasing their participation & values in a community.

Project description

The primary user of these facilities being the youth, have concerns about the provision of youth services within the
area, with the many issues briefed as:
- Lack of gratifying accommodation facilities
- Disconnected Youths in the community.
What is needed for the area is a complex that provides healthy and gratifying accommodation facilities, and facilitates the needs of recreational activities, public spaces and other supportive facilities to enrich the coherence between the scattered youth groups and the community.


The project categorizes youth of the area as the university students as well as the youth of the general public. A notable factor is that there is large number of migrant youth seeking education & employment in various institutions and establishments in the project area. This number is expected to increase with the upcoming developments planned for the area.
Since the project site is located in the proposed IT park, and is focused on facilitating the youth, the need of a structure derived from its own context to cater the lifestyle of the youth was observed.
The design concept is based on the contextual analysis and research carried out, proclaiming the need for diversification of activities within the city, to mitigate youth concerns & needs as intimated in the above context.

The concept aims to create links to enrich connectivity within the scattered diversities of youth groups as well as creating links for youth with contextual activities, enhancing a positive youth empowerment.

The design concept aims in addressing the key concerns mentioned by the primary user of the project, the youth. Having recreation as the key attraction function of the project, while providing gratifying accommodation facilities, the project intends to provide public gathering spaces, interactive spaces, recreational activities and various interior spaces, that facilitates as a means of social integration for the youth. The project idea is to establish itself as a center of attraction within the urban fabric, providing a common ground to share knowledge and experiences, showcase talents and improve self-empowerment.

The building while incorporating the vibrant character of the youth to its interiors, also acts as a respectful response to the natural character of the context. Visual connections are enhanced towards the wetlands and paddy fields surrounding the project site, to provide scenic views of the city to residents in the hostel and also to the public spaces, to provide an unconscious sensation of being a part of the city.


The concept identifies 3 types of spaces to achieve the “unity in diversity”.
- Celebrative Spaces – spaces to celebrate youth, with their most desired activities.
- Interactive spaces – spaces to meet, gather and interact to share knowledge and experiences.
- Spaces for physical and mental health development – to develop the deteriorating health conditions of the tech based lives of the youth.


The design features an outdoor performance space at the front of the site, to hold public entertainments and performances, gaining more pedestrian attraction.

The building is an experience, taking visitors through a journey with spatial functions & ambiences, created to induce interactivity. Recreational functions entrances the visitor & gradually leads towards the Central celebrative space. The interactive net climb, which outstretches from the entrance towards the central space, functions both as an interactive installation & an artistic abstraction.
Views are maximized towards the Public landscape, creating visual connections towards the outdoor recreation functions, while inviting natural light to illuminate the interiors.
The roof structure makes use of a transition from solids to voids. The play of light and shadows during different times of the day creates varying ambiances within the same space, allowing the spaces to accommodate multiple functions as well as levels of comfort.

The central celebrative space is a celebration of youth, having a natural setting with sculptural interpretations & activities, creating a platform to showcase young talents. This celebrative space acts as the central atrium & focal point to the interiors, with physical as well as maximized visual connectivity. The main feature of the space is the central interactive sculpture, which consists of colorful structures & hammocks, portraying an artistic abstraction of the connectivity between diversities.
Occupants are provided the ability to personalize their space, within the central space, thus facilitating a stronger connection to the environment. It also makes the environment more comfortable for the users within it, allowing them to be open minded to expose their abilities freely & interact with each other, thus stimulating a sense of connection & innovation through new relationships.

The congruity of the vibrant color pallets with the natural elements, evokes a harmony between the vibrant youth character & the natural character of the context, thus showcasing the connectivity between the youth & its context, & the sense of belonging to the society through aesthetic means. The use of color orchestrates a welcoming, active & dramatic spatial experience through the interiors.

The hostel interiors are focused towards the atrium, achieving visual unity & coherence in the design, by creating a central common space, around the atrium. Each hostel room is provided with a terrace, from which visual coherence is maintained towards the exterior & the context. Intermediate gathering spaces prior to entering a hostel room, provides facilities for small gatherings. Natural light streams in to illuminate the interiors, creating sensations of a safe environment & a psychologically soothing setting within the space. Common rooms & entertainment rooms in each hostel level, facilitates spaces for interactive entertainment. Internal partitioning of each hostel room, are created using temporary & dismountable partitions, allowing users the opportunity of personalizing their room in times of need.

The Public space includes outdoor recreational facilities such as a Skating Arena, Cycling track and gathering spaces. The public space has been designed with lush green landscapes and natural elements, created to appreciate the natural landscape & beautiful terrain of the context, to allow the contextual morphology to flow within the complex. The harmony & balance between the indoor and outdoor spaces help in perceiving the unification of the project & enhancing its design.

Digital oriented spaces such as Digital arenas allow users to connect to the Cyber world with digital recreational facilities.

Technical information


In order to make minimum disturbances to the soil in this sensitive area, sand piling was used as the foundation. Each main column of the building structure is provided with a sand pile. Sand compaction piles are one of the potential methods for improving ground stability, preventing liquefaction, reducing settlement and similar applications.

- Recycled timber partitions & furniture – theory of Reuse and Recycle of 3R concept.

- Using of green screens from the roof level as means of shade to the hostel rooms, instead of using artificial sun shading devices on the building exterior. This is achieved by a roof level planter system, which consists of a porous steel base plate with a 4 inch thick engineered soil fill. The type of plant used for this purpose is the Spanish moss, locally known as the “Air plant” or “gray beard”. Though not a true moss it does makes its own nutrients. This plant species is used as a means of building shading and insulation due to its ability to grow thickly.

- Energy Harvesting - Pavegen technology is incorporated to spaces with high movement such as the indoor & outdoor gymnasiums.
The Pavegen technology is a flooring system that transfers the kinetic energy of pedestrians into electrical energy and data. As people step on the top surface, their weight causes generators underneath the tiles to rotate, generating off-grid power via electro-magnetic induction. The walkways are equipped with wireless technology to transmit data on how people are interacting with them.
Solar thermal panels are also installed in the roof level, to harvest solar energy for hot water supply system and electricity.

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