Airbnb hires Apple industrial designer to join Backyard housing initiative
Miklu Silvanto

Airbnb's Samara hires Apple industrial designer to join housing initiative

Airbnb's offshoot design studio Samara has hired Apple industrial designer Miklu Silvanto to join the company's housebuilding initiative.

Silvanto will move from Apple's industrial design department to lead the industrial and interaction design team at Backyard – an enterprise that Samara launched last year to devise new ways to design, build and share homes better suited to new modes of living.

Silvanto, 38, said that he felt "privileged" with the opportunity to work on the project, which plans to roll out housing designs later this year.

"Samara has a huge ambition that will be very difficult to carry out, but it's exactly the kind of big, crazy gamble that these kinds of companies should be taking," he said. "The nature of the work and the creative approach we're taking make me optimistic for the future."

Silvanto employed at Apple for eight years

Born in Helsinki, Finland, Silvanto studied Industrial Design at Lahti Institute of Design just north of the city, and then gained a masters in Design Products at the London's Royal College of Art in 2008.

He began working at Apple under the tech company's chief design officer Jonathan Ive in 2011. He is also the co-founder of Nordic design agency Aivan.

Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia hired Silvanto to join the Backyard's eclectic team of architects, urban planners, filmmakers, roboticists, mechanical and hardware engineers, energy specialists and policy experts.

Researching for the housing involves exploring new manufacturing techniques, such as prefabrication, smart home technologies and eco-friendly materials.

"The integrity of the team at Samara continues to blow my mind," said Gebbia. "They're applying this thoughtful, bold mindset to problems of incredible complexity and scale."

"The results are fascinating and exciting," he continued.

Gebbia launched Samara as an offshoot of Airbnb in 2016 to focus on projects including architecture, service design and software engineering. Backyard was set up two years later to explore new methods for architecture and construction industry.

Backyard to focus on reducing waste in construction

When the initiative was revealed, Gebbia said that it would particularly focus on reducing waste produced by the building industry. Housing designs are also expected to include architectural features suited to shared living, drawing on the model of Airbnb.

"The way buildings are made is outdated and generates a tremendous amount of waste," said Gebbia, when the announcing the Backyard initiative in 2018. "In order to meet the demands of the future, whether it be climate displacement or rural-urban migration, the home needs to evolve, to think forward."

Gebbia graduated from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with a dual degree in Graphic and Industrial Design, before co-founding Airbnb with fellow design graduate Brian Chesky, and Nathan Blecharczyk, in 2008.

He initiated the company's venture into building design after finding that Airbnb hosts were modifying their homes in anticipation of guests. Samara kicked off with a prototype house designed and built for Kenya Hara's House Vision exhibition, featuring a community centre on its ground floor and traveller accommodation in its gabled roof.