LBA convert holding cells and courthouse into pod hostel
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LBA convert holding cells and courthouse into pod hostel

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We allowed the historic use pattern and materiality to define the design and were able to turn a challenging layout and a harsh material palette into positives, emphasising the hostel’s heritage aspect.
– Lynsay Bell Manson

LBA have created a pod hostel in a listed building that was originally designed as police chambers with holding cells and courtroom facilities.

Called 1a Parliament Square after its location in Edinburgh’s Old Town, the project was commissioned by Code, a hostel operator that accommodates its guests in sleep pods.

LBA managing director Lynsay Bell Manson said: "It was clear from the early stages of the project that the building’s unique history would play a key part in the hostel guest experience.

"We allowed the historic use pattern and materiality to define the design, playing on the concept of spending the night in jail. We were able to turn a challenging layout and a harsh material palette into positives, emphasising the hostel’s heritage aspect."

Although the building had been updated over the years, the uses and proportions of its rooms had largely remained the same.

LBA was keen to avoid changes to the building itself, which was first constructed between 1845 and 1849, and to preserve and enhance its existing character.

The original entrance door was recreated and the entrance hall restored to its original proportions.

Blocked up windows have been reinstated and repairs to the outside of the building traditionally detailed.

Inside, modifications and additions have been stripped back to the original finishes, with graffiti and other original wall markings retained for authenticity.

Where LBA carried out new work, it was made conspicuously modern to mark it out as such against the more historic fabric of the building.

The original layout was also retained, with the uses of different spaces simply redefined.

Due to the intended purpose of the building, rooms range from very small with little in the way of natural light to very large congregating spaces like the original courtrooms.

The varied configuration of spaces was actually well-suited to hostel use, allowing for different sizes of guestroom and for private and communal accommodation.

Vaulted cells with heavy-duty stainless steel doors and industrial “handwheel” handles were retained, allowing guests to spend the night in former cells.

Cells were fitted with Code's sleep pods, which are designed to give guests more privacy than bunks and each features USB sockets, an LED reading light, hooks and a shelf.

Original vaulted walls remain in various locations throughout the building, while public spaces like the entrance foyer and breakfast room use the original courtroom bench seating, with painted bare walls and wall panelling.

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LBA have created a pod hostel in a listed building that was originally designed as police chambers with holding cells and courtroom facilities.
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