Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk gave the Gensler Airbnb team, led by Principal Lisa Bottom, a challenge to create a home for Airbnb that would express the company’s ... Read full description
Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk gave the Gensler Airbnb team, led by Principal Lisa Bottom, a challenge to create a home for Airbnb that would express the company’s unique culture, values and brand. Important considerations included connections to the site and its rich history, connections to the local San Francisco community, sustainability in the design and construction of the space, and the creation of choices for workers in how they could work throughout the day.
To ensure that the Gensler design team fully understood the culture and values that made Airbnb unique, they embedded themselves in Airbnb’s offices for four months. During that time the team was able to experience the company culture and participate in events along with Airbnb employees. With this setup, the project was an unusual collaboration between the Gensler designers and the Airbnb founders, who are designers in their own right.
For Lisa Bottom, this was a wonderful experience. “I was trained as an industrial designer myself. Though I have worked in the world of designing office space for many years, I had never had a client who had the same design background as my own. It was great to work with other designers as my client. It was also very exciting to be challenged as a team to come up with unique and innovative solutions that were an expression of Airbnb. The entire team, including myself, was able to spend hours sketching ideas along with Brian and Joe. As a result, what was built is the dreamscape of the founders. For us, this is immensely gratifying.”
Key to the success of the project was a series of ideation exercises to imagine what the user and guest experience would be, even from the standpoint of entering the building from the street.
The space has been designed to enable workers to choose where and how they want to work on any given day, though workers do have assigned desks. The entire space has an open floor plan, with no private offices, even for the founders. Each collaboration space has a unique look and feel, with many of them being literal translations of listings from around the world. These unique spaces were done by Kassin Laverty of IDF, who worked closely with Gensler to bring them to life.
Other collaboration spaces include more functional project rooms, but the nod to the culture and values of the company is expressed by the inclusion of elements such as floors, wall panels and even furniture that were donated by RISD from actual rooms on their campus. The entire space has been planned to be open and authentic, with open ceilings and exposed ductwork. A series of existing skylights have been left in place to provide access to daylight throughout the space.
Finally, special function rooms are distributed throughout the space, including a circular boardroom with seating for 20, a library room for quiet focus work, and a dining area for meals. The top of the building houses the “All Hands Space” which is actually a complex of rooms, including a full service kitchen (providing breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks) for all Airbnb employees, storage rooms for the kitchen services, and a large dining area that has a spectacular view of the San Francisco skyline. This same space can be changed to theater style seating, and is fitted out for use as a presentation space complete with capability for multi-media presentations.
All in all, the new home for Airbnb is more than an office – it’s a home for the spirit and culture of Airbnb.