Inward views: Youth hostel in Cahors
Client: Gemeindeverband Grand Cahors
Architect: Antonio Virga Architecte
Location: Cahors (FR)
The 20,000-inhabitant town in southwest France can look back on over 2,000 years of history. In the Middle Ages it was an important centre of trade and banking and had become a university town in 1332. Although little of this significance remains today, this rich past and the well-preserved old quarter are enough to at least draw large amounts of tourists. The town's picturesque location on a U-shaped bend in the River Lot (and on the south of France section of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage trail) also do their part to make it a popular spot with tourists and other visitors.
Pont Valentré, one of the best-preserved mediaeval bridges in Europe and the symbol of the town, leads over the river. The bridge's surroundings are currently the site of urban renewal: new leisure facilities are to be created and a new residential quarter is to come about along the banks of the river and close to the town's railway station.
The new youth hostel in Cahors is located at the crossing point between the railway line and the pilgrimage trail leading over the bridge. The new 92-bed building is the result of an architectural competition held in 2012 and won by the Parisian architect Antonio Virga. As such it sets a strong accent in the townscape, having an almost completely transparent ground floor and practically no windows on the other three storeys with their white rendered facades. Rather, only large widows set at opposing corners provide views onto the town, the river and the bridge. The sequence of rooms ends at the very top of the building with a panorama restaurant leading over to a roof terrace.