Airbnb featured in Architectural Digest
Airbnb Renovates Its 650 Townsend Office with Functionality and Fun in Mind The company's design team partnered with local firms to create a new concept for one of its largest workspaces January 31, 2020 By Kelsey Mulvey
Photo: Mariko Reed
The atrium of 650 Townsend, Airbnb's renovated HQ in SoMa. For a company dedicated to facilitating adventures around the world, Airbnb likes to keep it local. Though the tech brand has offices around the world, it calls a former wholesale district in San Francisco its primary home. Airbnb recently chose to renovate its office at 650 Townsend, one of the largest buildings on its campus that was originally built by the late architect John Portman as the San Francisco Fashion Center.Airbnb partnered with WRNS Architects and Brereton Architects to upgrade the functionality of the space and infuse it with vacation-inspired details. AD PRO caught up with Rachael Harvey, principal designer of Airbnb Environments, to hear how she and her team brought a jet-setting spirit into the office. AD PRO: Airbnb has a large presence in the city. What was the plan for this particular space going in? Rachael Harvey: 650 Townsend is one of three major buildings in the Airbnb San Francisco campus. Each building plays a role in the whole: The atrium at Townsend is the single largest gathering place, so the goal of the project was to amp up the functionality of the space. We are growing and changing so rapidly; it’s challenging to build spaces for any specific team. Our goal was to design an open workspace that is as functional and adaptable as possible.Photo: Mariko Reed
The Night Market is a cafeteria space for staff. ADVERTISEMENT AD PRO: The building is anchored by the atrium. How did you approach such a focal center point? RH: The atrium intervention was about being in dialogue with the original architecture, but bringing it into the 21st century. We added stairs, expanded balconies, and refreshed the railing system to tie them all together. The project team’s nickname for the assembly was the “roller-coaster stair,” which is apt because the goal was to entice people to flow easily from other buildings on campus up into the heart of the space. From the Bluxome Street side, the stair flows steadily up to the top level with balconies and landings along the way. From the Townsend Street side, a circular stair is nested in a half-circle space. It’s part of the existing architecture, and corkscrews up to the top floor as well.Photo: Mariko Reed
“We wanted to simulate a pool in Palm Springs,” says Harvey of one of the common spaces. “What great pool doesn't have noodles?”
RH: We designed the floor themes to match up with the general themes of Airbnb Experiences. On the third floor, for example, we [were inspired by] art-based listings, such as artist loft homes and experiences like art walks and craft making. One room is based entirely on violin making. On the sixth floor the theme is based on food found around the globe—drawing on the amazing kitchens in our homes and the many different kinds of cooking experiences, such as a dumpling-making class in Shanghai.Photo: Mariko Reed
Each floor was inspired by the various travel destinations and activities offered by the company.Project Details
Name: 650 TownsendDesign Team: Airbnb Environments (Rachael Harvey, Aaron Harvey, Brendan Williams, Kevin Lee, and Leila Khosrovi); WRNS Architects; Brereton ArchitectsSize: 196,000 square feet
Location: SoMa, San Francisco
Timeline: Two years
Biggest challenge: "For the workspace, it was the limited natural light and low floor-to-ceiling heights. In the atrium, we had to work around the operational server farm in the basement."
Favorite piece in the design: "The Night Market, which is a micro-kitchen and servery. It is a good example of strategically using space that had zero daylight."
Strangest source: "We commissioned Rohan Deyal, a Delhi-based photographer, to shoot a panorama of Lodhi Gardens for the photo mural in the Lodhi conference room."
Smallest-ticket item: "Home Depot plastic lattice for our Green Dining Room."
An idea you almost went with: "A horsehair wall covering in the Calligraphy Experience conference room."
he most interesting thing on the project mood board: "Constantin Brancusi’s studio. The third-floor palette is inspired by the process of making art."