Keeping it Unique

Airbnb launches $1 million fund for wacky homes

A new design competition judged by MVRDV and others encourages hosts to dream big and dream weird. (Courtesy Airbnb)

Airbnb has launched a $1 million design fund that encourages current and future hosts on the online hospitality platform to get totally and unabashedly freaky—architecturally speaking.

Dubbed the Unique Airbnb Fund, the competition-based program is trying to find and finance a total of 10 “unconventional and unusual” living spaces via an online competition judged by near-EGOT-winning actor Billy Porter, Fokke Moerel, partner at Rotterdam-based architecture firm MVRDV, and Kristie Wolfe, an Airbnb ‘Superhost’ and proprietor of a colossal, $199-a-night baked potato in—where else—Boise, Idaho.

The Unique Airbnb Fund is a great initiative that makes hospitality exciting,” said Moerel in a news release. “It will empower people to create new spaces with daring, imaginative, and fantastic architecture.” Personal wunderkammers will be created for guests to appreciate and be inspired by.

To be clear, the program isn’t specifically in search of habitable tuber crops, boots, beagles, baskets, or elephants, despite the hyper-memorable nature of mimetic architecture. Airbnb also mentions tree houses, windmills, geodesic domes, covered wagons, tiny houses, and yurts as being fair game given that searches for these types of spaces have grown 70 percent over the past year. Because sometimes, an IKEA-furnished mother-in-law apartment just won’t cut it.

Each of the 10 finalists selected will receive a $100,000 grant to help make their eccentric design concepts a reality with the idea that they’ll eventually become Airbnb listings. As the contest rules elaborate, winners don’t necessarily need to construct a freestanding, fully livable structure if their idea is chosen—winning concepts can be realized within existing homes or properties. Each submission will be judged equally on creativity, sustainability, social good, and, most importantly, feasibility. Entrants must also demonstrate that they currently have an Airbnb listing that could be renovated in the future, have a listing that’s in the midst of a renovation that’s singular nature would benefit from the grant, or have concrete plans to execute an off-kilter listing that could be fully realized with a helping hand from Airbnb.

Grants will be divvied up and distributed to competition winners in equal parts during the initial thematic design phase, during the design development phase, and during the final construction documentation phase.

The submission period closes on April 15, and winners will be selected by May 15. The listings are expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Related Stories