In the past few months I have been exploring California through a relatively new website service called Airbnb. Essentially, it is like a house-hotel, or bed and breakfast for travelers and couch-surfers alike. However, one can see this service also as hospitality meets transit, or, “circulation as destination” (Architecture Theory); where a large hallway, a garage, or a caravan can become a lucrative rental opportunity that can gross anywhere from $20.00 to hundreds of dollars (per night). In terms of its architectural value there are three ways in which I can qualify my experience with Airbnb: City exposure, Visibility, and Design character. In other words how the rental unit relates with the City it’s located in, how the traveler(s) and host relate, and how the quality of this relationship is reflected in, or defined by, the architecture building itself.
“Rebirth – A new baby is born and the bee moves on”
Personally living in the Bay Area can be very warm and refreshing. With a strong sense of history and belonging it is not that difficult to see the beautiful architectural stock that makes the Bay both vibrant and relaxed. Each day the Cities around the Bay are reborn like young bees ready to explore yet confident in their duties to pollinate and beautify the world. So, as I stepped outside the lovely rental house in Oakland I was quite impressed with the warm handshake of the subtle summer breeze and the amazing grace of the northwestern views towards the bay. I felt at home as I cruised the streets, later returned via the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), and was at ease as I strode up the stairs of my newly rented Victorian.
“Novelty – Bees fly through the new bay window “
In some Airbnb locations people fly from remote corners of the world just to experience a new and different type of life. Some travelers come from Nepal, others from India heading West. Though Airbnb boasts locations around the world that form a bustling network of thousands of travelers and hosts. Most of the hosts I have encountered have been nice, friendly, and very informative in terms of understanding their location or understanding the layout and boundaries of their space. They often provide their contact information, provide house rules, conditions, and regulations, and, oftentimes provide a nice meal with generous portions. Some hosts ensure adequate path-of-travel for large travelers (BGA – Big Guy/Gal Accessible) and comply to local codes and articles. It is not unusual to have hosts that chat with you about sports, life, or work. Also, some travelers find opportunities to engage in trade and barter with or through their hosts. I find that hosts are often a good treasure of friendship and knowledge in the real estate market. They know their space, they know their numbers, and they know how to get value out of their real estate investment.
“Sweet – A bee and a baby boomer with sweet, sweet honey”
Real estate in the summertime in the bay can generate some sweet residential residual income. This type of passive income is sometimes put back into the building through remodeling, renovation, and expansion projects that can not only add value to real estate but can also add value to the relationships between travelers and hosts and between the building and the larger City context. It’s a responsive way to improve the experience of future travelers and it’s an intuitive way to make a substantial connection and impression with visitors from around the world. And, the residual income when put back into the building can improve property values of the block and help build micro-communities.
“Buzz – Busy buzzing bees at the bay”
Finally, the Airbnb experience has already started a buzz (on social media, etc) that is spreading like dominos throughout the world. It is a more intimate way of exploring a city, a town, or a building as a traveler, and, a potentially rewarding way of improving relationships and building communities (no pun intended) as a host. So, when next you decide to go on vacation or even a stay-cation, don’t hesitate to try some home-sharing alternatives (like Airbnb, Homes like hotels, etc).
In loving memory of my younger brother, Gideon Ebuehi (August 30th, 1984 – July 10th, 2015).
He taught me to think outside the box, to present in style, and, to always put God and Family first. Also, he taught me to be careful and question everything. That even in the period of a black president, African-American citizens (and others) have been targeted, watched, and harassed for (often baseless) reasons that have been kept hidden from the public until recently.
Artwork by author, Daniel Ebuehi.