Airbnb is officially the world’s largest home-share community. With their new innovation lab, Samara, the multi-billion dollar company wants to claim a role in urban planning, too.
Stepping up to tackle larger technological and social challenges, Samara’s first venture is a communal housing project designed to revitalize a small town in Japan. Yoshino Japan, located in the Nara prefecture, offers a rich history, is Japan’s most famous cherry blossom spot, and is home to the country’s most famous cedar forests. Yet, rural towns in Japan, like Yoshino, are hollowing due to the rapidly aging population and the trend of younger people moving to bigger cities. This inspired the creation of the Yoshino Cedar House — a community center where travelers can stay and soak up the surrounding culture.
The design and building process of this project has occurred hand in hand with the surrounding community. Designers, architects, and community members were hired by the Samara team to create the final product. In the end, this project hopes to draw in new people, serve as a community meeting place for residents and visitors, and encourages residents to open their own homes to Airbnb.
Is the Samara concept the creation of a tiny hotel, or could this be a traveler’s ticket to a vacation style of co-living? Aside from the bedrooms, all rooms of the Yoshino Cedar House are intended to be shared with other travelers and community members. Joe Gebbia’s hope for the Yoshino Cedar House is that visitors will be interacting with the community from the minute they arrive. Visitors will become immersed in the community and interact with other visitors on a daily basis.
This project merges the well being of residents and visitors. Money from visitors will be used within the community to strengthen the cultural legacy and future of the area. The project hopes to develop social change within and around the Airbnb community. Currently the Yoshino Cedar House is on display at a concept home exhibit in Tokyo. The building will be transported to Yoshino when the exhibit closes and is due to open after its arrival in October.
Similar issues have been seen in the UK, Korea, Spain, France, and Italy. By monitoring the progress made in Yoshino, Samara can then consider scaling the project to help rejuvenate rural communities and small towns around the world. This new venture allows Airbnb to expand home sharing while becoming a force in urban planning. Their investment has the possibility of creating desirable co-living destinations for travelers, drawing more people to Airbnb for their wanderlust needs.