The Creatives is Bernhardt Design’s ongoing initiative to collaborate with people outside the traditional world. In The Creatives, Part 2, we introduce you to Joe Gebbia and the Neighborhood collection.
Airbnb has changed the way we experience destinations by providing travellers with access to accommodation they wouldn’t have otherwise. Now Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb, is changing the way we experience office furniture with a modular, mobile and connected collection that offers a flexible solution for the evolving workplace.
Gebbia has a background in product design having graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in industrial design. During his studies, Gebbia was introduced to the work of the twentieth-century masters of design, Charles and Ray Eames. “Learning about the Eameses was my first introduction to the idea that you could apply your approach to creativity toward design and change the lives of the people surrounding you,” Gebbia says.
And Gebbia certainly did that in 2008, when he, along with Brian Chesky and Nathan Blecharczyk, launched Airbnb and forever changed the travel accommodation industry. Airbnb – the product and consequently the team – has continued to expand and over the last nine years the company has moved offices multiple times. Faced with the challenge of adapting existing furnishings to different spaces, Gebbia joined forces with Bernhardt Design to create a Neighborhood, a collection that allows for endless configurations.
Neighborhood is designed for workplaces as well as public spaces, such as restaurants and airports, and it reflects the Airbnb credo of openness and community. “At Airbnb, we celebrate the connections people make every day through our platform; connections with new places, new people and new cultures,” Gebbia says. “The collection celebrates the beauty of these connections while providing comfortable, flexible solutions for the evolving workplace.”
Bernhardt Design unveiled Neighborhood at ICFF in May. The concept of the collection is based on two simple building blocks that can be put together in various configurations: a high-backed seat for noise control and a low-backed seat for open conversations. “Joe’s idea of using two simple building blocks to create an entire community of flexible products was ingenious,” says Bernhardt Design President and Creative Director Jerry Helling. “The beauty of the line is that it can be easily and instantly adapted by the people using it, rather than relying on an installation team to reconfigure a workspace.”
As such the furniture is designed to be as fluid and flexible as a company’s IT systems and processes (theoretically) so that it can be adapted to the changing environment. It also addresses the high levels of noise and lack of privacy in open-plan workspaces.
With 38 modules, Neighborhood is the largest collection released by Bernhardt Design to date. The pieces range from tall privacy units to sofa sectionals as well as tables and mobile ottomans, and each can be configured depending on purpose and privacy needs. For example, high-back designs allow for extra privacy during meetings; low-back seats encourage creative brainstorming; and benches cater for casual conversations. There is a strong focus on technology integration and seating is made using sound absorbing materials.
Each of the pieces is light enough that groupings can be easily and readily rearranged to form expansive landscapes or small intimate settings. There is also a great attention to detail and craftsmanship with unique zigzag stitching on each piece, which, Helling says, “makes it incredibly special and elevates the entire offering.”