Abstract This paper argues that perceptions towards asylum seekers are shaped by both media representation as well as lived experiences in and around asylum accommodation. Drawing on Lefebvre’s spatial triad, the paper aims at disentangling the conceived, perceived and lived spaces of asylum accommodation in order to understand asylum accommodation as a space that is produced and re-produced in everyday life. The paper discusses the case of the Grandhotel Cosmopolis (GHC), a prominent example of local innovation in asylum accommodation located in southern Germany. It compares and contrasts the GHC’ media representation in national and local news media with local residents’ evaluation and direct experiences with this project and its effects on how asylum seekers are perceived. The results of the media analysis highlight a difference between a national ‘utopian’ framing and a local ‘experiment’ framing of the GHC. Local residents’ direct experiences proved influential in their evaluation of the project, yet could not overrule dominant media representations of asylum seekers. The paper concludes by suggesting that the GHC’ relative openness produces a space which allows for contact and familiarization between local residents and asylum seekers, yet that dominant framings of asylum seekers as criminals or victims also contributed to a perceived closedness of its space and discouraged contact and familiarization.