Airbnb looks to the future

Pictured: Airbnb central staircase.

Pictured: Airbnb central staircase.

Mid October saw many of Dublin’s finest architectural buildings fling open their doors to the public for the 11th edition of Open House Dublin.

The weekend event featured everything from the 17th century Royal Hospital Kilmainham, to the state of the art Facebook headquarters.

NewsFour went along for a quick tour of the impressively modern Airbnb, at its unmistakably historic location on Grand Canal Docks, for a sneak peek inside.

A long line of eager visitors (mainly twenty somethings) queued outside for a chance to view what for many of them was perhaps their ideal, and hopefully next, place of employment. The tour was given by Glenn O’Brien of the building’s architects, Heneghan Peng, and he began with some historical background. The site on which Airbnb now stands was largely open space until Dublin Trawling Ice & Cold Storage built a series of units in 1865 to house the contents of the many trawling ships that docked on Hanover Quay at the time.

In 1953 the Raleigh Bicycle Factory moved from their headquarters on York Street to become the next resident and went on to supply bikes to the Irish market over the following decades. In 1976 the factory was destroyed by fire, then rebuilt, only for another fire in 1978 to level it again. The wheels stopped turning and the doors finally closed in 1980 with the loss of some 540 jobs. The building was to lay idle for the next 35 years until Airbnb began renovations in 2015 to ready it for an occupancy earlier this May.

The 4,500 square metre three storey shell was designed to accommodate workspace for 400 staff and the general concept was to create a rooflit atrium space and central staircase around which people could move freely. Every nook and cranny was utilised in order to promote chance interaction and collaboration among workers, with even the landings between floors having meeting areas.

Pictured: Airbnb meeting rooms.

Pictured: Airbnb meeting rooms.

The lower ground floor level contains the open kitchen and dining space which Airbnb consider central to a healthy workplace. Each floor also houses a kitchenette area to create further opportunity for encounters and there’s a games area and an open plan I.T. counter, where you can sit and chat to the computer technicians.

The central work space consists of 28 ‘Neighbourhoods’ each containing 14 staff members who work on a particular geographical location and language. There’s a Task Table with ergonomic chairs and monitors where workers plug in their own laptops. No individual storage exists but everyone has access to a ‘landing spot’ to house belongings and a central mantlepiece allows workers in each neighbourhood to place items of personal meaning, putting their stamp of identity and self expression on the space.

Meeting rooms cater for anything from two to twenty people and all are themed and based on listings from the Airbnb website (our favourite was a recreation of an apartment in Mykonos). There are several acoustically sealed telephone booths where workers can make calls in comfort, and with more workstations than staff, the architects have designed enough space for people to sit where they like.

The Dublin office is said to be an evolution of other existing group offices around the world, with previous design errors either improved upon or eliminated. This ultra modern construction is certainly impressive, and a long way from cold storage or bike building.

By Paul O’Rourke