HACKING AIRBNB - ateliermob application for Oslo Architecture Triennale 2016 - "Home Sharing Platforms in Copenhagen" competition

May 9, 2016


I – Airbnb: their terms, their fiction –

In times of globalization, individual tourism and economically driven migrations have gained a bigger scale: on one hand, a neo-colonial search for the exotic, where “unique spaces” are discovered by the individual pioneer, on the other hand, fluxes of people just looking for a cheap and quick solution for a small period of time, as their precarious employment and financial situation demands. It seems that, in this system, belonging means being part of the industry of commoditized culture and city marketing. In most cases, real interaction and the sense of “feeling at home” is not the priority: sometimes, guests (and owners) give up their privacy and try to fit into someone else’s life.

Within the new wave of Internet based services and business models since web 2.0, services as Airbnb and Uber describe themselves as part of a new sharing economy. But what does sharing means in the case of Airbnb? Nearly all of the houses and apartments are not shared – they are simply rented out, just showcased and monetized, while the profit of Airbnb is not shared but boosted on of the top rated start-up already in the Unicorn Club as defined by Aileen Lee. With the “sharing” motto, Airbnb easies the process of turning private spaces into commercial short-term housing spaces.

For the idea of sharing something there is a collective subject needed: the community.
Airbnb works as a global marketplace for stays, mostly in famous cities. The service provider is normally someone with low wages that needs the money to increase its low income or a disguised hostel. The customer does not benefits from local community but from its precarious condition and low regulation. This highly profitable and low responsibility relationships create the community of Airbnb precarious consumers.

Renting or buying homes is getting more difficult for most of world’s population. In most of the cases of spaces rented out via Airbnb, the owners need the extra money to secure their situation as a tenant or debtor, as more and more families are getting pushed to the outskirts of the metropolis. By putting homes on the Airbnb platform, they turn into images: they are being showcased. In most cities Airbnb has already created a housing stock shortage and provided tendencies of gentrification in certain neighborhoods. In countries as Spain, Greece or Portugal renting out via Airbnb can be considered, in many cases, as a method to consolidate the status quo of precarious workers, rising rents and living costs.

Unique Places and Authenticity
The more trendy a neighborhood is, the better one can sell an Airbnb announcement, just as the more “hip”, better images of “unique places” can be created. In the process of monetizing unique places, dwellers alienate themselves from their homes, and architecture becomes somewhat of a fictitious place. Belonging becomes difficult and through the created images the authenticity turns into a farce: The user consumes at least an illusion of what is supposed to be there.

Monetize and showcase extra spaces
It is clearly the goal of Airbnb to make money and not to share. Since when does sharing mean selling or renting? Surely the Airbnb Corporation could assume the action of paying the taxes in each country, but it seems that they prefer to keep taxes as low as possible, while the European headquarters will move into the less taxed country – now it's Ireland. Airbnb supports new announces by providing free professional photo shootings, producing perfect photos and creating images of these unique places, which are simply unreal. On the other hand, on its therms and conditions, Airbnb rejects any responsibilities on the provided renting contract acting just as a well paid observer and facilitator.

II What are we going to do?

Our intervention consists of creating make-believe homes from Lisbon in Copenhagen industry of Airbnb houses'. From 50 fake profiles, we will produce 100 fake Copenhagen houses of Lisbon homes.
For this experience we have chosen Lisbon because it is a growing market of Airbnb due to the austerity measures that Portugal has been suffering but also because it will occur in the last semester of 2016 one event that we would like to connect with this Oslo Triennale edition: the Lisbon Architecture Triennale. Matching both events will support the intended discussion of Airbnb effects on architecture practices and city, which is our goal with this provocative project.

This process will be developed alongside four steps:
1. Three months to prepare fake profiles and photograph Lisbon homes;
2. Six months of dealing with airbnb platform and 100 houses to rent;
3. Three months of providing analyses and conclusions to be exhibited in Copenhagen.

At the end, we will unveil the project and demonstrate these unreal belongings, the non-sharing community and the alienation of architecture in form of an exhibition in Copenhagen during the Triennale and in Lisbon.