Taking up residence in the old Blagen Block building, just a stone’s throw from Portland’s Williamette River and Chinatown, is the new home of Airbnb’s North American operational headquarters. The customer service centre was created to house the approximately 200 staff who take inbound calls from the company’s over 25 million customers across 34,000 cities and 190 countries. To transform the historic premises, the San Francisco-based company put its internal design team – plus over 50 customer service reps in Portland and local designers from the same community – to work in crafting a suitably curated setting.
With Airbnb’s mission top of mind – “creating a world where you can belong anywhere” – the internal design team arranged contrasting spaces within the exposed brick structure to accommodate many types of working styles: standing and chatting, hanging around the lounge or sitting at a traditional desk, even though each agent is equipped with a laptop and headset for mobility. Standing desks or “landing spots” also provide places to store personal belongings or to lock and charge laptops overnight. The layout even includes light and dark areas, depending on the amount of brightness people prefer to work in.
Beehives, ships and other accommodation-related themes – decided upon by Airbnb’s employees – inspire each room’s unique vibe. This is where the local design scene really came through. Portland’s The Good Mod, for example, created communal tables and refurbished the mid-century modern pieces, including Eames chairs, around the office. SuperFab fabricated the landing spots, Phloem supplied much of the lounge seating, and Seattle’s NK Build devised custom coffee tables with power capabilities. Many of the attention-grabbling accents, such as light fixtures and art, were made by the employees themselves. Throughout, warm materials such as wood and felt predominate, making the interior feel both hip and cozy. In fact, this balance makes the office a successful model for the next customer service centre, slated to open in Singapore.