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Airbnb into Design

Airbnb is moving beyond home-sharing and expanding into new areas with the launch of their multidisciplinary innovation and design studio, Samara.


September 7th, 2016

Samara’s mission is to explore services and ideas that are consistent with Airbnb’s values and vision in order to invent new futures for the company. The new venture brings together design and engineering experts from Airbnb to create hardware and software that supports the exploration of new attitudes towards sharing and trust, something that Airbnb has discovered has the capacity to go a long way. With experts brought in from a range of backgrounds, Samara will explore architecture, product design, software engineering, and new economic models.

“Samara is all about generating new ideas and building products that serve the Airbnb community,” says Airbnb co-founder and CPO Joe Gebbia, who has conceived Samara together with co-founders Brian Chesky and Nathan Blecharczyk. “Samara will give us even more space to apply what we’ve learned over the last eight years and create new services for connection, commerce, and social change within the expanding Airbnb community.”

Samara’s debut project is the Yoshino Cedar House, a community centre where travelers can also stay. Designed and built for Kenya Hara’s House Vision exhibition in Tokyo and created in collaboration with Japanese architect Go Hasegawa, the house explores how architectural features can engender a deeper relationship between hosts and guests.

Following the exhibition, Yoshino Cedar House will be permanently installed in Yoshino, a rural town in the Nara district of Japan, where it will be a bookable Airbnb that is maintained by the local community. Proceeds earned from guests who book the listing will be used to strengthen the cultural legacy and future of the town, which has struggled as young people migrate away from rural communities.

As the Samara team worked to create the Yoshiro Cedar house, the team explored new ways to merge the community with space for guests. And the end result – a listing run by and for the benefit of a local village – is the first Airbnb of its kind. The Samara team will closely monitor the progress of Yoshino Cedar House and consider scaling the model to similar communities around the world in an effort to revitalise them in the same way.

This urban planning-cum-social change concept is just one example of Samara’s potential. In an article Gebbia wrote, “While we’re interested in designing experiences and services, what really drives us is this: to keep dismantling barriers and creating ways for the members of our community to support and connect with each other.” With community at Airbnb’s core, what it does next is sure to help strengthen the future of our global community in new and exciting ways.

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