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Booking.com’s DNA reverberates in their new tech complex

June 28, 2023

Bas Willems headshot

The new Booking.com headquarters, designed by UNStudio proudly occupy an eye-catching position on Oosterdokseiland. It is a tech campus that you typically only find in Silicon Valley: an architectural masterpiece of 65,000 square metres that provides best-in-class functionality. Eleven storeys in height, with room for more than 4,500 staff members. Managing a massive project like this from A to Z: was a first for me. The biggest challenge? Giving the building – with all it's diverse functions and styles – that distinctive Booking.com feel whilst still delivering it within a certain budget and time frame, of course. In this blog you can read how my team and I managed to do that.

Typically Booking.com

I first became involved in this assignment during the design phase. Booking.com had approached us with the following question: how do we ensure that our complex is a coherent whole that accurately represents our company? The brief initially seemed to focus on interior design, but it soon became clear that we as project managers needed to look beyond that. This was inherently more complex in nature as there were so many organisations involved. Our task was to ensure that this building allowed Booking.com to breathe. To do that properly, we need to become intrinsically involved in the entire development. This included all elements of the delivery; from procurement, fit-out design, to cost management and the control of construction quality. This helped to evolve our relationship with Booking.com. We tackled the project together, phase by phase, without losing sight of the end result.

Function first

Our starting point was functionality, which is one of Booking.com’s crucial core values. They had sky-high ambitions and a long-list of expectations and requirements. We managed to meet these within the target budget and within the ambitious deadline. The new headquarters houses around 4,500 employees and all the facilities are of the highest quality. All occupants can work comfortably – wherever they happen to have a desk. There are also cafés, three restaurants, an auditorium, event spaces and no fewer than 28 fully equipped breakout rooms. To bring all these functions together coherently in such a way that it was unmistakably Booking.com was certainly an enormous challenge that we relished overcoming.

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Celebrating diversity

From the get-go, Booking.com was determined to see cultural diversity and its international character reflected in the building design. They are the biggest travel platform worldwide and employ people from over 140 countries. Everyone had to feel at home in the complex, regardless of whether they came from Vught or Buenos Aires. In order to ensure we could achieve these targets, we formed a unique interior design team:: ten hand-picked architectectural firms from all over the world. Each of them took responsibility of an area, a floor or a product. For instance, Shanghai-based Linehouse Design took on the design of the second floor restaurant and the event space on the 11th floor. Our own CBRE design team took care of the 1st floor, the boardroom and many of the breakout rooms. In order to give the building even more of an international feel, we designed the breakout rooms based on 28 different travel themes. You can leave a meeting in Tokyo and go to a table in the Great Ocean Road within a few minutes

So many architects working together on a singular building – I believe that might beunprecedented. That is truly where you see Booking.com’s ambitious and courageous mentalityrepresented: ‘We’ve never done this before, of course we’ll manage’. For us it was great to be able to translate that positivity into tangible results. We of course, have to be on top of everything to achieve this. This was one of the key reasons that we met on a weekly basis: Booking.com, all the interior architects and our own team. This enabled us to communicate effectively, resulting in a jigsaw puzzle that fitted together perfectly, rather than a collection of separate entities. Together with Hofman DuJardin, UNStudio and the other interior architects, we created a fantastic headquarters.

Working together the Booking.com way

We believe we have tackled this entire project in the ‘Booking.com way’. For our collaboration, that meant developing personal connection and a level of mutual trust. We spent a lot of time working very closely together during the development, and together we decided on what would be the best way to proceed. Everyone is impressed by the sheer scale of the building and the high-standard of the architecture but the success of this project should actually be contributed to the collaborative work behind the scenes.

We created a well thought-out plan with Booking.com for each phase incorporating budgeting, task-division and team staffing. Nothing however, could be set in stone: we often had demonstrate flexibility in order to make adjustments based on usefulness and necessity. That may sound obvious, but often a plan is drawn up initially, which then ends up being forgotten about down the line. Flexibility is especially important for a project of this size and of this duration. Managing a project like this was a great challenge, and I have learnt so much over the past few years, particularly from the close collaboration with Booking.com. To be afford the opportunity to go on this journey with such an open-minded company – with no clearly-defined plan and off the beaten track – was a completely new experience for me. The end result is definitely something to be proud of!

Project details

Client: Booking.com
Architect: 
UNStudio
Lead Interior Architect: 
HofmanDujardin
Project management: 
CBRE
Workplace Consultant: 
CBRE
Area designers: 
CBRE Design Collective, HofmanDujardin, i29, Linehouse Design, Studio Modijefsky, UNStudio
Layer designers: 
MOSS, Mijksenaar, Powerplant, Scholten & Baijings, Studio Rublek
Photography: 
Stijn Poelstra, Matthijs van Roon
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