April 29, 2014

No More Boring Offices: Heneghan Peng Does Airbnb!


Continuing my series “Down with the Boring Office,” I am excited to bring you this out-of-the-box post featuring the new Dublin offices of tourism giant Airbnb that follows our open-office design trend. As luck would have it, it’s also the perfect #TravelTuesday post! Designed by Heneghan Peng Architects, an Irish firm based in Dublin, the plan naturally includes references to the city in which the offices (and the firm) reside, among them a reception area modeled after an Irish pub with a horseshoe bar! I thought it would be fun to do a Q&A with the talented architects so Global Lighting blog readers could get a feel for the uniqueness of the project. Happily, they obliged.

GL: Is Heneghan Peng seeing this tack to create offices with less constrained “workstations” and more free-flowing areas a trend?

HP: Yes & No, too much of anything is never good. Airbnb were well aware of the desire and need for open interactive spaces whilst at the same time for spaces of deep heads-down concentration. Though Airbnb-Dublin is seemingly wall-less free-flowing continuity, it is actually a collection of virtual interconnected rooms each with its own degree of openness and privacy. This is something that is experiential and unless you actually work there for a few weeks, difficult to sense.

Architecture has, we believe, even to this day been burdened with architectural typologies developed by both the completely cellular and subsequent endless openness of open-plan offices. But to answer your question: yes, companies like Airbnb are at the forefront of testing a new office typology.

GL: Is there a greater challenge in designing offices with such an organic feel to them?

HP: Of course. Walls make space, without walls space is lost. These are two extremes. The organic is not about shapes and forms, it is about a free-flowing space; the trick remains, how does one create wall-ness without the physical walls.

GL: What was the biggest challenge in this project?

HP: The hill. When Airbnb showed us the space they said, 20% of the space is in the dark, that’s 200 m2, there is neither windows nor daylight, we cannot lose this space. So we thought to ourselves, what does a window do, it provides 2 things, light and a view. Well since we were on the ground floor, daylight was not an option, so we decided to provide the best view we could and where can one get the best view, on top of a mountain. Given the height of the space, that is what we did, we made a mountain and from the top of this mountain, one can see the entire panorama of Airbnb-Dublin.

The hill, as they call it today, functions going back to your previous question in 2 distinct ways. It is seating for large 100+ person presentations yet when there isn’t a presentation, when someone wants some privacy and to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, one goes to the mountains. The hill is used as quiet space where people can work without interruption.

GL: What is the firm the most happy with in the project?

HP: The hill.

GL: How many Airbnb spaces did the firm study in order to integrate them into the overall feel of the new spaces?

HP: A lot, thanks to the internet!

Have you stayed in an Airbnb on your travels that you were particularly fond of? We’ll be continuing our “Down with the Boring Office” series in the future, bringing posts like Heneghan Peng does Airbnb about every month or so. Let us know if you have designed an office space that qualifies and we’d love to feature it.

Photos, courtesy of Airbnb, copyright Ed Reeve.

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