Congruous coexistence contained

The fantasy of wanderlust would quite probably be the most significantly unifying desire and aspiration amongst the youngsters nowadays. Better access, enhanced connectivity and a prolific peer network that is active and engaged through the ever-buzzing social media platforms; travel has thus never been easier.

Contrary to the conventional organized vacations that have a fair share of planning, travel scheduling and accommodation booking that goes in beforehand; it is the backpacking trend that is seen to be on the rise.

Scouting for scenic spaces in serendipity, the backpackers often travel on a shoestring budget. Hence, their choice of stay is often quite restricted to tents, low-cost lodging or youth hostels.

Containers arranged in a cascading manner to offer valley views to all.

There thus exists a neglected niche of a proper budget-friendly accommodation facility that is safe, comfortable, hygienic and moreover complements the sanctity of its surrounding environment. Since these backpackers are on a look-out for serene spots, the place of stay should ideally resonate with such character too.

Catering to this demand, nestled in the strawberry capital of India- Panchgani, is a property that offers all the right vibes and more. A curated composition of reused shipping containers that are subtly set on the cascading terrain of the Western Ghats, offering mesmerizing panoramic views from every level.

The proposition of a backpackers’ hostel befittingly caters to an age group of 18-40 years that are essentially urban travelers yearning for a getaway.

Courtyard at Level 2

Keeping in mind this specific user group, the spaces are so conceived such that it enhances and enriches a social bond among the diverse young minds flocking in to use this property as a temporary stop-over.

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The design team at Madhav Joshi and Associates has rightfully embodied the spirit of such a commune and essayed a judicious juxtaposition of sustainably sensitive built forms on an enchanting ecological setting.

The precariously perched ensemble of the masses drive inspiration from the Sherpas that carefully carry loads as they negotiate narrow trails on the Himalayan slopes.

Reception Lounge and Common Room at Level 1

The integrated pathways that traverse through the grading terraces mimic such an experiential journey. Each terrace thus house living units with ample spill-outs that are social nodes which multifunction as congregation spaces when need be.

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The structural properties of shipping containers being fully exploited to ensure minimum ground contact while obtaining maximum habitable spaces within. Innovatively minimal structural systems in steel efficiently anchored with tension rods ensure stability to the physical composition.

The interior treatment of the container cabins is one aspect that needs ardent attention. For optimum thermal comfort, gypsum walls with thermal insulation are provided along with wooden flooring to bring out a spacious and airy aura in an otherwise cramped and dingy metal box.

Arrival Lounge

Windows in powder-coated aluminium channels and cots in powder-coated MS add on to the sleek and slender design language adopted throughout. The dormitory cabin below has an abutting hard-built toilet and washroom core that fall in line with the restrooms above to facilitate ease of plumbing and drainage.

Other than the apparent stark imagery of steel boxes jutting out from the mountain slope, the overall color palette of the project follows earthy tones, except one, the red reception lounge box which symbolizes the Butea Monosperma- ‘ The Flame of the Forest.’

Attributing in all essence of social responsibility, the project incorporates various art and artifacts of the local craftsmen in vivid themes, thereby establishing a platform to narrate regional stories that bring out the culture and tradition of Panchgani to the fore.

Owing to the characteristic design and unique setting, this backpackers’ hostel run by Zostel is a crowd favorite among millennial travelers. A hostel made out of containers though seemingly out of context, invariably falls into this newfound modern idiom of architecture that suits the culture of its own typology.

The project thus being an ideal exemplary on how architecture has this unparalleled power to be irrevocably imposing yet soothingly subtle at the same time.

Fact File

  • Project: ZOSTEL Backpackers’ Hostel
  • Client: Parees Hospitality
  • Typology: Hospitality
  • Location: Panchgani, Maharashtra
  • Architects: Madhav Joshi and Associates
  • Design Team: Karan Puranik, Anubha Joshi
  • Site Area: 1100 sq. m
  • Built-up Area: 600 sq. m
  • Year of completion: 2017


  • Structural: G.A. Bhilare Consultants Pvt. Ltd
  • Plumbing: Swami Consulting Services
  • Electrical: Siddhivinayak Electrical Consultants
  • Landscape: Forethought Design Consultants

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