Mother Nature must be a fan of Airbnb. As hundreds of hosts arrived at San Francisco’s Fort Mason this morning for the Airbnb Open 2014, the wet weather that had soaked the city just the day before was gone.
The group was greeted with a rainless blue sky—along with stylish tote bags designed by local outfit Rickshaw, filled with business cards (with the host’s name and email address), personalized program, pin, and Airbnb’s hot-off-the-press magazine, Pineapple.
In the lobby of the historic Fort Mason Center, situated on the picturesque waterfront, a local shared tips with a Boston-based host about the flattest (i.e., easiest to walk) areas of San Francisco. Attendees flocked to an oversized Bélo swinging sculpture that provided a perfect photo opp. Nearby, a station of computers encouraged hosts to “make a symbol that tells your story.” And neon versions of the Bélo seemed to echo the vibe here: electric.
Throughout the space, comfortable outposts furnished with blankets and burlap-covered ottomans promoted gathering with friends, some of whom were strangers just moments before. In the main show space, amid the sea of white chairs—enough to accommodate the roughly 1,500 registered hosts—lounge areas piled with sisal rugs and plump pillows beckoned as well. Music throbbed from the giant speakers, yet the sound couldn’t match the decibels of the enthusiastic hosts.
As everyone took their seats (there were even a few dogs in the crowd), tweets with the hashtag #AirbnbOpen appeared on the screen behind the stage. The word “welcome” in myriad languages—a nod to the 40 countries represented at the three-day inaugural event—rotated through.
Chip Conley, Airbnb’s head of global hospitality and strategy, would later note that the only continent not represented is Antarctica; the furthest attendees hail from Singapore (13.6k kilometers from San Francisco); and the closest attendee (1.9 kilometers) rode her skateboard to Fort Mason.
If any hosts were looking for a way to take their décor to the next level, without spending a ton of money, there was plenty of inspiration to be had around Fort Mason. By the entrance, art was created with unconventional and inexpensive materials: One wall was embellished with rope and a couple of tin cans, displayed in a linear pattern and another with an assortment keys.
Across the way, toothbrushes in rainbow hues, as well as plastic combs and utensils, were artfully arranged. Upon close inspection, as the installation’s mundane parts became clear, the revelation elicited a common reaction: Hey, I can do that! That’s cool.
Further proving that a little out-of-the-box thinking goes a long way: “a conceptual art piece,” as Chip described it on Twitter, comprised of toilet paper rolls, rubber gloves, and sponges. Combined, their shapes and colors yield a conversation starter. (Who knew that a trip to the cleaning aisle at Target could result in art?)
A vignette was created with 18 small shelves topped with an assortment of vessels—vases, teapots, bottles, small pitchers—holding greenery and fresh blooms. Another work is simply a concentric series of squares, made out of wooden rulers.
Individually, the components of the art may not seem like much; but as a whole, they make an impression. And perhaps nowhere does this idea ring truer than right now at Fort Mason Center, where the leaders of the Airbnb global community have congregated.
“Together,” company cofounder Brian Chesky told the room, “what we can do is design the type of community that we want Airbnb to become. … Together, what I would like us to do is build this better world—and I’d love for us to do it one guest at a time.”
This is a guest post by Anh-Minh Le who attended Airbnb Open and is the editor in chief and cofounder of Anthology Magazine, as well as a regular contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle and SFC&G. She is also an Editor at Large for California Home + Design. Travel and design are among her passions, and browsing Airbnb listings never fails to give her a serious case of wanderlust.