The Size Of Personal Space_Adaptation of vacant commercial spaces in potential homes through the involvement of Airbnb


This study has identified the meaning of home and its importance for the developing of personal identity of the ongoing growing floating population.

The city of Umeå is the University pole in the Swedish region of Norrland. Lots of new students arrive each year and the University is not able to guarantee accommodations for everyone, furthermore temporary workers have the same problem of finding a dwelling.

The challenging issue for the floating population in Umeå is the difficulty of finding an affordable and available dwelling where the rights of security, sanitary and civic belonging are assured at a reasonable price.

Airbnb is the easiest way to find a temporary room in Umeå. However, the investigation of Airbnb has shown that nowadays a regulation is needed in order to limits its damages and exploit its potentialities.

The proposal foresees a design which includes the re-use of local vacant buildings as transitory solution for these people and a collaboration between Airbnb and the local Municipality in order to enhance the relationship between the city and its citizens. The design might adjust to the existing morphology of the building and it will change from space to space. As a matter of fact, it is necessary to have a movable and flexible technology. Whenever the owner of the space wants to start a commercial activity again it will be useful if the technology is detachable, packed and transported somewhere else with the minimum economical loss.

Each tenant have the possibility of renting a smaller room on Airbnb together with another tenant. The circumstances of renting through Airbnb will be subordinated to clear rules stated in the contract, in the interest of avoiding business-making. The incoming money can be used to finance the rent and the tenant’s personal lifestyle. The association will ask a percentage on the profit in order to finance the activities of the civic workshop.

Through the use of different building technology the realisation of the first rooms can become an educational workshop for the students of the school of Architecture of Umeå.

This could lead to a collective practise done by students who build for other students.

Afterward the first accomplished rooms could be rented on Airbnb in order to finance the rest of the project.

Taking into account that a house is not always a home the project explores the size of the personal space and expands the notion of home. The home mutates into a hybrid, a place for contact with the community, friction and also discussion.


Who influences you graphically?

I have been influenced by many artists and architects over the years. I find the work of the illustrator Quentin Blake and the architect Saul Steinberg inspiring because of their way of using the line to give personality to the drawing. Even though they develop two different styles they both emphasise the power of the line as a graphic tool. I also admire the work of the artist Joohee Yoon for her use of bright colours and inventive patterns.

What prompted the development of the project? Was this out of first hand experience?

Yes, it definitely was. I left Italy to study my MA in Sweden and during my studies I also did an Erasmus in Spain. In both cases the process of looking for accommodations became very exhausting. Due to the exploitive rental market, I ended up living in places that did not provide me with a feeling of safety and dignity.

During this period I met plenty of other people who shared my experiences. Talking to them and later realising the scale of the problem led to the beginning of the project. I felt it was relevant to emphasise the importance of having a space where you can truly feel at home, even if it is temporary.

How and to what extent has Airbnb changed and challenged the notion of the ’home’?

Throughout the project I met several hosts who talked about their experiences of living with a guest. From what they shared it became clear that home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb challenge the private dimension of the home. The home is then open to strangers and not only to family and friends. During the time frame of the guest’s stay, the home transforms into something different from what the host is used to, where the private and public dissolves. The hosts, intentionally or not, lose their privacy and open up to new encounters, transforming their residences into a  meeting place.

Where do you see the future of platforms as Airbnb? Could these really force the house to mutate into yet another hybrid?

Recent findings suggest that, in many cities, Airbnb is no longer used merely by independent hosts who share their houses. In fact, unclear regulations allowed agencies and hosts to make a business out of it. In my opinion, the future of platforms as Airbnb is linked to the conversation of how they should be regulated in order to limit their damages and make use of their potentialities. Since I believe they are here to stay it is important to find a sustainable use of them. For instance, in my proposal I suggest to use part of the money generated from Airbnb to finance civic activities for the citizens.

I believe that what is leading the house to mutate into a hybrid is not so much attributed to those platforms but more to the new lifestyles of the floating population.

What dictated the various drawing mediums through which you explore and reveal the proposal?

At the beginning hand-drawing helped me to have more control of the design choices. It started merely as a tool to explore the spaces during the thinking and design process but throughout the development of multiple sketches of the same view the technique melted with the proposal. By hand-drawing the spaces I was able to better communicate the sense of home.

Also, since I wanted to represent an experimental home I thought it would be interesting to explore different architectural representations.

Where does the hand drawing sit in relation to the plan and model?

I aimed for all of them to share the same level of detail. Details are what make us feel at home and through details we personalise our space. However, each one of the techniques have a different focus. The plans and sections shows how the mobile additional structures are attached to the existing building. The model allowed me to explain the relationship between the context and the intervention. Finally, the hand-drawn axonometry is meant to  communicate a certain atmosphere with an overview of the whole project.