Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts


Interior Design

First Advisor

Kristin Carleton

Second Advisor

Rob Ventura


After a worldwide pandemic, perspectives towards personal space and private quarters have shifted. Social distancing procedures during COVID-19 altered the use of space, even after vaccinations have been administered. After limits on large gatherings and keeping 6 feet away from each other, what is the expectation that people hold now when in public?

Research will include interviewing the intended user groups (students and travelers), designers who are familiar with hospitality and hostel design, and hospitality professionals. The perspective on private and public space has shifted after the pandemic, so a survey will target hostel age groups that could help understand the correct approach to the separation of the two. What are the boundaries of personal space when sharing a room and how and when can it shift into discomfort? (Stix, 2022)

Edward T. Hall who created the term proxemics, defined four scales of distances between people in his book, The Hidden Dimension: “intimate (less than 1.5 feet – shared with dear ones), personal (1.5 to 4 feet – shared with good friends and family), social (4 to 12 feet –

shared with acquaintances) and public (12 to 25 feet and more – shared with all).” (Hall, 1966)

The intention of this thesis project is to research and push the boundaries of a space that explores the shift in proxemics and the expectations of hostel guests. A hostel, defined as a room occasionally shared with strangers, offers an opportunity to explore these new

boundaries within shared spaces.

On a global scale, the younger generations are waiting to settle down, and instead traveling more. (Lee, 2018) Hostels have become more popular with this shift in perspective and offers a more affordable alternative to expensive hotels when traveling more frequently. (Wilkinson, 2022) Michigan University conducted an experiment on twelve people after Covid-19 and their comfort level around others. The Doctor who led the experiments, Dr. Holt explains that the “Findings support an idea that goes back to Freud’s original insights that our conscious worries and beliefs about our lives can influence our day-to-day behavior in ways that we are not aware of.” Dr. Holt also mentions that two feet was the average personal space requirement in public situations before the pandemic, and since experiments have proven that the personal space requirements have expanded, certain spaces such as small rooms and elevators may be uncomfortable. (Massachusetts General Hospital, N.D.)

In contrast, Sociologist Vikas Mehta wrote an article that stated that the change in proxemics created a yearning for socialization, which led to the redefinition of both personal and public spaces. For example, neighborhoods were once seen as private spaces which

then transformed during the pandemic, and became opportunities of socialization with neighbors and family. (Mehta, 2020)

The hostel offers an affordable lodging experience within a historic structure in Fredericksburg, Virginia that creates a unique separation between the private and communal spaces.


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