Unveiled as one of this year's landmark projects for the London Design Festival, Airbnb's installation in Trafalgar Square sees four British designers and studios define what home means to them. Jasper Morrison, Studioilse, Patternity and Raw-Edges were each invited by the San Francisco-based company to customise simple wooden pavilions to bring its vision of 'A Place Called Home' to life.
'Our interest in design pre-dates the company,' explains Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky. The RISD graduate has consistently combined a deep passion for the discipline with a philosophy that espouses a better quality of life. 'Design isn't just how things look,' he adds, 'it can be about rethinking entire systems for how cities connect with each other and how people travel.'
The four projects offer a panoramic view of domestic living, ranging from classic interpretations of the space alongside more conceptual views of a residence. British designer Jasper Morrison was inspired by the location itself and his house, which was created for a pigeon keeper ('Who else would choose to live in Trafalgar Square?' he muses), features a minimalist, plywood-clad interior where the designer placed his more austere furniture pieces.
Meanwhile, Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay of design studio Raw-Edges focused on a versatile living arrangement, creating a house with spaces and rooms that shift and change around a central lighting fixture (as Barbican residents, the pair know a thing or two about a well-considered living space).
Studioilse founder Ilse Crawford passed the brief back to the audience, challenging them to think about what home means to them - visitors are encouraged to answer the question via a dedicated Twitter feed. The designer used sound, videos and a specially-developed scent to convey an all-round domestic landscape.
Finally, in classic Patternity style, British duo Anna Murray and Grace Winteringham staged an interactive installation of oversized kaleidoscopes with repeating triangles, circles and squares, the ubiquitous patterns of life.
The quartet of installations share a special dichotomy: not only do they present a diverse point of view in design, but their location in one of the city's busiest areas will allow them to have a meaningful impact on the festival's visitors and passers-by alike. 'Even if someone doesn't understand the work of these designers, they can walk in here and experience what home is through their eyes - and for us this is an opportunity to make design accessible,' explains Chesky democratically.
The company now finds itself in an enviable position: Airbnb's original scope has vastly broadened and within a few years the brand now operates in the very privileged role of design supporter and patron. 'And we will continue to support design,' Chesky says, 'because I think a world with more design is a more tolerant world.'