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All these places have broken out of the structured cubicle layouts and breathe free thanks to unconventional designs

A Neighbourhood Office

A peaceful and well-laid-out neighbourhood is said to have a calming effect on the people living in it. That clearly got Airbnb Tokyo thinking!

Walk into this new Tokyo office of Airbnb, and you might just feel that you never left the bustling environs of Shinjuku, the neighbourhood around. With building-styled panels and wooden sit-outs hiding behind the greenery, it takes time for one to realise that you are actually ‘inside’ an office.

This office idea is striking, apt for an organisation that was founded on a seminal thought itself. Airbnb was born in 2008 when Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky of the Rhode Island School of Design decided to simplify the lives of travellers by offering them stays in the homes of local people; ‘homestays’ as they are popularly known today.

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The idea picked up quickly, very quickly, especially amongst people wanting to sample the authentic culture, food and lifestyle of the places they were about to visit. Today the company’s offices have mushroomed in major cities all over the world, boasting of bookings that match or surpass even those of well-known hotel chains.

In short, any Airbnb office is going to be a bloody busy place. With the numbers growing, Airbnb also has to keep fuelling the creativity of its employees.

A stimulating workplace is a good start in that mission. In Tokyo, for eg., the Environment Department of the company worked closely with Suppose Design Office to create the neighbourhood-like ambience, blurring the lines between work space and the rest of the world.

In this working area, you will pass a phone booth, lounges, cafés and even a garden area that do their usual thing, but also double up as meeting places and calm escapes for employees on solitary assignments. To achieve a result that would be comfortable, calming and highly productivity-friendly, Suppose Design Office had several dialogues with the employees on the kind of workspace they envisioned. It even got down to the nitty-gritties, like what the most comfortable table height would be.

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Working with the information on people’s needs and expectations, the design team led by Makoto Tanijiri and Ai Yoshida, created adjustable desks, communal tables, project tables and candid nooks. “The main concept of this project was to recreate the feeling and vibe of a Tokyo neighbourhood,” the duo states.

This idea of transforming the office space to fuel creativity can be seen in the Singapore, London and São Paulo offices of Airbnb as well. All these places have broken out of the structured cubicle layouts and breathe free thanks to unconventional designs.

By not sticking to the glossy and done-to-death office designing ideas, Airbnb may be leading the way in another sphere – that of experiential, interactive office spaces.

By Latika Payak

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