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Zurich Youth Hostel

Mutschellenstrasse 114
8038 Zürich (ZH)

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Phone: +41 43 399 78 00
Fax: +41 43 399 78 01

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History - The city youth hostel

Even at an early stage, the need to provide affordable accommodation for young people in the City of Zurich also became apparent. Up to 1936, accommodation was arranged only on a temporary basis in schools. Every now and again it was necessary to move from one school building to another, either because the school needed the space for its own use or because the hostel operation interfered with lessons.

The first hostel

It was a huge step forward when a simple school building on the Mutschellenstrasse in Wollishofen was finally made available for use as a hostel in 1936.

The growing popularity of travel and hiking since the post-war years soon meant that the initial capacity of 80 overnight guests was unable to satisfy the demand. As a result, the sole day room was fitted out with a further 40 beds. In the main season, it was simply impossible to consider bookings from schools and groups. In 1961, the number of people turned away reached a peak of more than 2,000.

The new building

In 1957, the city council took the decision to rebuild the youth hostel on the existing site and appointed Zurich architect Ernst Gisel to plan the project. In December 1962, the requested building loan of 3,850,000 Swiss Francs was approved and in 1965, almost exactly three years later, the longed-for Zurich youth hostel opened its doors.

In his project, Ernst Gisel clearly allocated the different functions to individual parts of the structure. He split them into the six-floor dormitory wing, the three-floor domestic wing and the single floor day-room wing. Hence the building presents itself with an extremely object-like, non-static volumetry. The individual parts of the structure are united to form a strong volumetric unit through the recurring theme of multiple layers of building recesses as well as the uniform language of the openings. The building is one of the most important examples of 1960s architecture (Brutalism) and has been included in the City of Zurich’s list of protected buildings since 1998.

The alterations

In 1996, the City of Zurich handed over the property to its operators and made a generous sum of money available for its renovation. An expansion of the hostel was essential which, in view of the importance of the building, had to be carried out with the utmost sensitivity. After an evaluation of the various approaches, it was therefore decided in 2003 and 2004 to add a further level to the three-floor domestic wing. The ground floor was given a spacious feel by the removal of internal walls and thereby clearly allocated to general utilisation. The main entrance was relocated and now faces the nearby tram stop from where the majority of guests arrive at the youth hostel.

Although the number of beds was reduced slightly from 312 to 290, the Zurich architectural partnership Meyer, Moser, Lanz succeeded in increasing the number of 2 and 4-bed rooms significantly, better reflecting the needs of today’s customers as well as providing greater flexibility and in turn better utilisation of capacity.

In autumn 2007, the Zurich Youth Hostel had a special distinction bestowed on it by ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) in the context of “Historic Hotel of the year 2008” award “for a sensitive and successful conversion of a 1960s building”.

Zurich Youth Hostel today

Zurich Youth Hostel today

Hall 1968

Hall 1968

Dining hall 1968

Dining hall 1968