How Airbnb is reimagining the office experience

Aaron Taylor Harvey heads up Airbnb’s Environments team, which has brought to life its offices everywhere from San Francisco to São Paulo. He discusses the challenges of designing for such a fast growing business, and why flexi-working needn’t threaten the future of the office

We’ve come a long way from the fad for office slides, as inspired by Google’s now infamous early Noughties office designs. As start-up culture – and tech companies in particular – have grown up, so too have the kind of spaces that their employees want to work and socialise in. As well as having the all important ping-pong tables and sleep pods, companies are being forced to rethink how their offices fit in with people’s increasingly flexible working habits.

Airbnb is a prime example of today’s design-led tech brands, helped particularly by the fact that one of its co-founders, Joe Gebbia, comes from a design background himself. The company has become particularly well known for its instantly recognisable visual identity, created by DesignStudio in 2014, and slick user experience.

Banner image and above: Airbnb’s headquarters on 888 Brannan Street, San Francisco © Mark Mahaney

It seems only fitting then, that the company’s offices should be equally as well designed as its digital platforms. This is where the Airbnb Environments team comes in. Although only formed in 2014, husband-and-wife team Aaron Taylor Harvey and Rachael Harvey actually started working with Airbnb a year earlier when the architecture studio they founded together after grad school, Myriad Harbor, was commissioned by the company to design a few of its events and art fair booths, culminating in them designing its Portland office.

“About a year into our engagement we decided we would take the opportunity to propose that we not work as an outside design studio but in fact come in-house, and thus the Environments team was born,” says Harvey, who now heads up the team’s creative direction, while Rachael works as Executive Creative Producer.