The Bijou Project at Brienz Youth Hostel

Petra Schibler is an architect specialising in conversions and renovations for Swiss Youth Hostels. In this interview, she talks about the challenges and personal highlights of this small but beautiful conversion project on Lake Brienz

A lot has happened on the ground floor of Brienz Youth Hostel. The entrance and check-in have been upgraded and the lounge sparkles with its brand new look. And: You can now eat and drink 24/7 at the brand new Self-Kiosk!

Petra, how do you generally approach such a renovation project?

The Swiss Foundation for Social Tourism is responsible for the construction and maintenance of youth hostels. We make decisions on maintenance measures based on assessments of their condition. As soon as several measures are required, we launch a project involving the comprehensive resolution of structural defects and the necessary improvements in standards.

For me, it is important to take operational requirements, the guests’ needs and the official regulations into account. With existing buildings, this can sometimes be very challenging

Satisfied guests on the terrace of Brienz Youth Hostel. ©Linda Robel

What challenges did you face during the renovation?

As Brienz Youth Hostel is a small hostel, the structural conditions and the limited space in particular were a challenge. Fire safety, personal safety and escape routes are always major issues in old buildings too.
But we are very satisfied with the current solution: We have moved the main entrance to the front towards the access road. This enabled us to optimise the flow of guests, better separate the lockers and give the lounge a new look.

Organisation at check-in and at the food counter has also become easier. This youth hostel can therefore offer everything that the big ones have.

The buffet and dining room welcome you with a new look, self-service kiosk included. ©Linda Robel

What is your personal highlight of this project?

One key highlight is certainly the panorama window in the new lounge. Our guests are now greeted by a large, 4.40-metre-wide sliding window that beautifully connects the indoor area and the spacious garden.

My personal highlight is the special wooden ceiling in the dining room. We deliberately left the rust red and lime green decorative trim on the ceiling. We were able to take their distinctive colours and integrate them into new building elements.

The large sliding window in the new lounge is captivating. ©Linda Robel

What would you do differently in the next project?

Basically nothing. We have received a lot of positive feedback and feel that the concept works very well. The regular guests in particular can see the difference and are positively surprised by the changes.

It is important to note that small projects should not be underestimated; in principle, the stages of the project remain the same as for a new building and require just as much organisation.

A small project with a big effect: Comfort is top priority here. ©Linda Robel

What are the advantages of the renovation, especially for families and barrier-free holidays?

Before the renovation, the old entrance had various functions. It served as the entrance to the lounge and as access to the garden area. In the past, the reception area and the lounge were only accessible to guests in wheelchairs via detours through the premises.

The new main entrance is now barrier-free and our guests can reach the newly built reception directly — with barrier-free check-in options. Thanks to the detached chalet with a barrier-free wet room, the youth hostel is also well equipped for barrier-free holidays.

Swiss Youth Hostels has 33 barrier-free youth hostels on offer, 25 of which are classified as ‘barrier-free’ and 8 as ‘partially barrier-free’.

Find out more about this topic in the interview with Kurt Schempp (responsible for barrier-free access at the youth hostels).

Welcome to the new youth hostel reception! ©Linda Robel

For families, there is now the advantage that children have direct access to the garden from the lounge. And with the sliding window open, our guests can hear and see when someone is playing the piano inside.

What’s more, the existing fireplace in the lounge and the fantastic panoramic view can now be enjoyed at the same time.

Are there any other renovations planned?

There are plans to upgrade the garden area with a new children’s playground and make alterations to the upper floor during the winter break.
As the hostel in Brienz is open for half the year, we can always complete the renovation work before the next season starts.

Pure relaxation with a view of the water. ©Linda Robel

Why should you definitely visit Brienz Youth Hostel this summer?

This hostel enjoys an exceptional location directly on the picturesque Lake Brienz. In particular, many guests adore the large garden and the direct access to the lake. So if you are looking for an idyllic and friendly atmosphere by the water, this is the place for you.

Dear Petra, thank you very much for this interview!

By the way: There are countless landscapes, places of interest and activities to discover in the surrounding area. Several examples can be found in this blog post about Brienz Youth Hostel, which contains some cool summer tips for you.

Open for you 24/7: The practical self-service kiosk. ©Linda Robel

An interview with Petra


©Petra Schibler

Petra Schibler is an architect at the Swiss Foundation for Social Tourism. As the person responsible for construction, maintenance and projects, she performs project management for conversions and renovations. She also enjoys devoting herself to a project, such as the conversion of a shipping container, in her free time too.

Do you already know our self-service kiosk?

Thirsty or in the mood for something sweet? The self-service kiosk offers you everything you need for your daily (or nightly) needs around the clock. Currently available at Brienz, Leissigen, Luzern, Rapperswil-Jona, Schaan-Vaduz, Valbella, Zermatt and Zug Youth Hostels. The offering at other locations is currently being planned.

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