Backpackers and a museum

I was trying to come up with some idea that I could use to make my fortune, once I read about the opportunities within the floating kingdom.

I had loads of ideas, but many were already being talked about, and I really wanted to be different. I decided to watch TV looking for ideas, and the first night there was a travel programme that covered backpackers, people who want low cost accommodation, and I started to look at how this might be able to be provided.

To start I looked at joining another project as I thought I could achieve my initial design by using cheaper inner space within an island, I didn't need windows just space I could split up economically.

I sounded out a few people on the net and suddenly realized the shear volume of people who would be interested in this and that amongst this was a variety of needs.

The need varied from very low cost sleeping space to effectively small bedsits, and from a day to several months use. The need above this was for B&B facilities below the facilities being met with the variety of hotels that was developing already.

I drew up a quick design for an island with a range of hostel facilities for singles and couples at a  arrange of budgets. Varying from apartments in the outer walls to sub divided dormitories in the island. We also included a low cost canteen and a level of cafés, plus a leisure area including a pool, low down. I thought about putting a park on the surface, and was looking at other ideas, when I came across another group that was raising funding to provide a museum.

After contacting them and chatting about their ideals and needs I presented them only a few days later with a design they liked, the surface had this really nice large house standing in a park, where the parkland was open to the public and two levels below they had galleries covering the complete levels, and below that a storage area.

The two halves of the island could be separated, the lower half and the museum half. We even had two separate sets of landing stages at water level, although there was a link that allowed people from the hostel to get up to the surface and across to the museum landing stage, although this link could be shut when required.

The museum group wanted a nice looking property in grounds, but in practice this type of facility is of no real use for displaying the majority of the items they want to show, as they want to keep out sunlight and control the environment. They did have some galleries within the mansion, but also had conference and other facilities as well.

Joining with the museum group had two advantages it cut the costs to both of us, but also gave a new image we could build on for the hostel.

The construction process involved basically two basic design techniques, the bedsits were pre- configured pods dropped in at the relevant points, and the rest was created out of Ferrocement, constructed on a scaffolding frame. We had looked at a temporary scaffolding frame that was later removed or cut out, but the architects came up with a design that allowed a lot of the scaffolding to be built into the design and painted up and left in place.

When designing the hostel we were tempted to have in effect many units, but decided that having one unit with many options would allow groups traveling together to mix better, we did however decide to have a large number of dormitories that in effect allowed people to decide on male, female or mixed arrangements. Corridor arrangements allowed different combinations to be cut off for each, allowing a lot of flexibility to meet need. There was talk of having lots of other sub groupings but these were not really needed and we felt it was better to keep things as straight forward as possible.

The simplest and cheapest facilities would be a form of staggered dormitory mini pod, these are as far as I know unique, the best way to explain them is as a line of large 10 foot deep, and 4 ft high dog kennels with curtains that pull across above, perched on top are another line set back 3 feet, and above that further levels, a bit like the sides of a an Egyptian pyramid.  Within the structure there are several of these one behind the other so that although you have plenty of walking height, there is little wasted space.  The design stops every now and then when you get instead a line of bathroom facilities each serving two floors of sleeping rooms. Occasionally you also get common rooms and seating areas. 

There are two grades of these mini pods, one is simple, has a matress, light, locker and little else. Sleeping bags are available for hire or people can provide their own. The higher grade have small entertainments centers built in with a small TV screen, radio, and internet access. These are also slightly wider, and while you can get two people in both many of the people who use them say that the feeling they get inside is very much like being in a two man tent.

The next grade up is a full height dormitory cubicle, with a single bed fitted into one wall. Because of the way we have made them the space under the bed forms a large cupboard space and fridge for the next cubicle. The space next to the bed space likewise forms a part of the next cubicle and houses the wardrobe. The cubicles have folding doors. These are designed for single occupancy, they have a chair, combined TV and internet unit, and drink making facilities, plus a fold down table.

Next we get bedsits, that are very similar to those you would find in university accommodation, they have their own ensuite facilities and come in two basic designs, the simplest has a sofa that converts to a bed, while the larger ones have both a living room and bedroom. Both are suitable for either single or double occupancy. There are alarm buttons both near the door and by the bed which allows single people to feel safe in mixed communities.  Pushing the alarm button both sets off an alarm and turns on a CCTV camera built into the room. A speaker and connections through the TV system, allow us to talk to the people if necessary, eliminating most problems before they really develop.

We do have a few isolation units these are rooms into which we can move people who will not get on with others, and these have a small, shared area and direct access to the landing stage and offers a half way stage before having to tell people they have to leave. Knowing these facilities are available, makes overseas visitors realize they have to behave. If they are thrown out of these facilities then they either have to show the kingdom authorities they have somewhere else to stay or to leave immediately. It is unlikely that anyone excluded by us would be provided accommodation elsewhere.

Shared facilities include a canteen, social rooms, TV rooms and cafés, plus health facilities and pool. We also have our own dance hall/nightclub facilities that are open to our guests and others from outside and is very popular with the younger set.

As you will know the practice within the floating kingdom is that in addition to creating an island for your own use you have to provide an equivalent island for the kingdom, and we provided an island next to ours that has a large number of B&B establishments, and shared gardens on the surface. The same architect and builders built both islands. This second island likewise has a café level, and pool etc, but is more aimed at families and older people. The kingdom lets out the various B&B establishments to people to run and they all work together in a combined marketing approach. Most have made their establishments special in some way, mostly by choosing different themes or specializing in catering for dietary or national needs for people, from different places. We work with them for example jointly sponsoring a doctors surgery for visitors, in some marketing operations, and one of the B&B's has been rented by us to house our managers, a need we overlooked in our design.


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Last updated: May 08, 2002.