Header InResidence

Home Sharing Platforms in Copenhagen

Intervention Strategy: Cher

Caitlin Blanchfield, Glen Cummings, Jaffer Kolb, Farzin Lotfi-Jam and Leah Meisterlin

Intervention Strategies speculate on the architectures associated to the particularities of each site, and can range from spatial strategies, typological variations, and material prototypes to digital platforms and legal propositions, among many others.

“For those who seek a couch for cuddling, for those with a homesick thirst to quench, for those who need an overhang for huddling, for those who’d like to share a bench...There’s Cher.”

Cher is a digital platform—a prototype-as-provocation, allowing visitors and users to reserve or rent objects by the minute—produced through community-driven methods of research, focused on identifying untapped opportunities and existing controversies within sharing-economy social platforms for changing urban environments.

Responding to home-sharing and short-term rental apps, Cher foregrounds their broader social and economic consequences: the marketed reinterpretation of one’s personal belongings, incrementalized subdivisions of time, and the delicate but unearned trust between strangers. Following these trends, Cher exploits their logics: a frictional platform unapologetically connecting individuals through things and the scripted language of exchange. Just as private owners advertise their objects for rent on the platform, a city’s public objects are advertised for “reservation” to others by its citizens. Weaving interior and exterior space through the isolation of objects, this platform is a mechanism to advocate for local public space, learn about a city and its constituencies, and retool interior architecture for social encounters at a humble scale.

Site Brief:

Site Briefs provide the framework for the In Residence: Call for Intervention Strategies and Call for Associated Projects, and open up architectural questions associated to each site.

Airbnb apartment in Copenhagen, Digital Platform (2015). Courtesy of Airbnb.

Home sharing platforms are becoming increasingly popular around the world, leading to new forms of cohabitation that challenge the relationship between commerce, residency, and ownership. For a city like Copenhagen, that was a pioneer in shared inhabitation models beginning with the introduction of co-housing communities in the 1970s, the nascent “sharing city” exemplified by the flourishing of home sharing companies such as Airbnb, may be seen as the market-oriented version of the Scandinavian culture of communal living.

Started in San Francisco in 2008, and now spreading to more than 190 countries, Airbnb opened its Copenhagen office in 2012. The home-sharing company provides information and access to a distributed network of privately-owned residential spaces. A wide range of domestic interiors are listed, from spare rooms and couches, to entire houses and apartments, often seen as an alternative to the sterile rooms of a commercial hotel. Unknown “guests” pay to live amongst the belongings of others, simultaneously challenging traditional ideas of homeliness and tourism. Domestic artifacts are, in this context, potential revenue streams, objects that can be monetized in the tourism market. What “guests” are seeking to rent is not simply the futon or the bed itself but, as an Airbnb co-founder explains, the “authentic” experience of temporarily being a local—borrowing the life of “the other” as part of a touristic experience.[1]

The transformed conditions of tourism and habitation that Airbnb's promise embodies provide an opportunity to connect strangers and expand the economic benefits brought by travelers beyond traditional touristic areas. But the offer of “authentic” experiences that grounds this promise has also triggered criticism. Some reports point out that the service exacerbates housing shortages and masks how rental prices have risen so high that many people cannot afford to pay them without, paradoxically, the supplemental income from renting out their own homes. [2] Airbnb, thus, hides a controversial reality behind the welcoming and inclusive rhetoric of “belonging anywhere”.[3] As the community of global customer-guests and hosts expands, it might also be the time for the industry of sharing to enter the business of borders, residency, and citizenship—as an alternative to passports and visas—through algorithmically managed profiles, trust rating, and smart lock systems.[4]

Reaching from the inflatable mattress to the cities that tourists overwhelm, the various scales of these phenomena trigger a questioning of the role of architectural expertise, since architects work at the forefront of the intersection of the legal and physical environment—defining documents, visualizing processes, and intervening in the architectural logics triggered by the so-called sharing economy.

Site Report (A Teaser):

Living Architectures on Home-Sharing Platforms in Copenhagen

Reports about the sites have been commissioned from a group of international architects, artists, journalists, and other professionals. The commission for these reports is intended to challenge ideas of ‘site’ solely concerned with geometric boundaries and contextual references. Intervention strategies and associated projects do not need to respond to these reports.

We arrived yesterday night in a nice, spacious and cozy apartment. The owners, a charming mid-age man and his wife with two lovely boys, welcomed us very warmly but left us rather quickly after giving us a ton of tips and useful infos to walk around in the city.

As we were rather tired we stayed home all the evening. I wouldn’t have thought a night at home could have been more entertaining and exotic than visiting an ethnographical museum!

The apartment was full of objects and personal stuff.

The owners are for sure collectors because from artworks to CDs, books, photos or knick-knacks of any kind, the house is packed with personal objects.

We spent all night rummaging in all this. My husband concentrated on the bookshelves. He played dozens of CDs – mainly world music – reviewed their tastes in films and books – tons of crime novels and horror films – and looked at their art collection, literally covering the walls – a rather questionable taste of erotico-provocative style. Our two kids were absorbed by the quantity of games they found in the children’s room. What an excitement! For my part, I spent most of my time in the bedroom and in the bathroom, sniffing the perfumes and cosmetics – rather fancy and sophisticated I have to say! Just as the wardrobe. A lot of black in the closet, but with sometimes some bits of eccentricity. For dinner I dressed up with some clothes I found in the bedroom. Velvet black suit. Borsalino. Shiny red slip. I made a hit! Even if my husband started to worry saying I was exaggerating. But then I convinced all of them to find something in the drawers to wear on too. We had such a good laugh! I don’t remember much about the dinner and the night on this super large bed, but waking up in the morning our headache was talking on its own… We had such a good fun that evening that we could have stayed the full week-end closed in.

Having let us enter their life this way, Chris, Samantha and their kids seem to be a worth-to-know family!

This week-end, we rented our flat to an Italian family. As they arrived much later than scheduled, I was a bit nervous when they arrived. To be honest they looked pretty different from their online profile, which proves once again how much you can create yourself a mock identity on Facebook, etc. The mother looked at least ten years older, and the smiling blond kids were much more turbulent than what I imagined from their holiday pictures. The father, an engineer, didn’t look neither as sharp as he seemed on his LinkedIn bio.

As usual, we tried to be welcoming and convivial but when you see the kids jumping on your sons’ beds and the lady greedily looking at your family photos, you can’t avoid feeling a bit invaded and overwhelmed in this kind of situation. But let’s say that I am getting more and more used to this, trying to relativize even if I have to admit that a slight apprehension persists. Since our last bad experience, I decided to make a few changes in order to leave more serenely the keys to my guests. As when we rent the apartment we are staying at a friend’s, living in a building almost on the other side of the street, the first times we stayed at the window for some hours – a true remake of Hitchcock’s movie - trying to observe what was happening in the apartment. But honestly you don’t see much…

A crazy friend of us told us once to leave the surveillance camera of our alarm system on. I thought it was just insane! But my wife, less worried by ethics than me, pushed me to do it. I know that’s bad, but since I discovered all what my guests were doing in the apartment, believe me, I feel much less guilty. Initially it was a real shock watching these strangers going through your personal belongings, laid down on your bed with their shoes on or making love on your sofa. It made me so nervous.

But, as I said, my wife has a much more playful mind. She spent her time in front of the computer watching the video as if it was her new TV series. I am sure she would have a lot to confess to her psychoanalyst but little by little she managed to convert me too. Since then we turned this into a sort of Saturday night family program. All gathering around the computer in a joyful atmosphere, we look at it as if it was a video game of our own family life. Pretty funny!

In Residence: Sites

Related Content