Ikea research lab ponders the future of the ideal city

Space10 – Ikea's research and design lab in Copenhagen – has teamed up with publisher Gestalten to create a book that explores a better urban environment for humanity's future

The Ideal City ikea book
(Image credit: Photography: Anne-Sophie Rosenvinge)

The Ideal City is a new architecture book from Space10, the Swedish furniture giant Ikea’s own R&D lab, based in Copenhagen. A compilation of best practice from around the world – 53 cities in 30 countries – the thrust of the book is to capture urban projects that are striving to make a difference, gently but inexorably steering towards the impossible goal of ‘utopia’. As a result, there’s a welcome thread of positivity running through the pages, perhaps unsurprising when you consider how much of a positive spin Ikea has managed to place on the prosaic art of furniture making.

The project run from public toilets to new parks, urban farms, food provision, even prisons and wholescale city district regeneration. Divided into five focal areas – The Resourceful City, The Accessible City, The Shared City, The Safe City and The Desirable City – the book includes projects and proposals from featured architects such as SelgasCano, Naruse Inokuma Architects, Gustafson Porter + Bowman, and Urban-Think Tank, along with a host of thinkers and theorists.

The Ideal City ikea book hero

(Image credit: Photography: Anne-Sophie Rosenvinge)

The topics cover all the key talking points of our age, from closed-loop energy systems to more walkable, accessible and diverse urban spaces. As architect Bjarke Ingels describes it, true utopia might be impossible, but that doesn’t stop designers from ensuring that each time they design a ‘little fragment of the world [you have to make it] more like the way you wish the world to be’.

Many of the featured projects follow the now-familiar format of a focal point designed to act as an exemplar and generator of socially progressive ideas, whether it’s a place of worship, a community market, a bike park or public seating.

The book goes further by talking to planners and entrepreneurs, highlighting the uneasy relationship between public and private that makes progress so unpredictable. You’ll come away from these pages realising that although design leadership is never in question, what’s needed most is political will. Without economic and legislative building blocks, a new social contract will struggle to take shape. 

The Ideal City ikea book project example

Fábrica de Cultura: Grotão, Brazil by Urban-Think Tank.

(Image credit: Image: Urban-Think Tank)

The Ideal City ikea book eva studio

Tapis Rouge, Haiti, by EVA Studio.

(Image credit: Photography: Gianluca Stefani)

The Ideal City ikea book JAJA Architects

Parking House + Konditaget Lüders, Copenhagen, by JAJA Architects.

(Image credit: Photography: Rasmus Hjortshoj)

Three Generation House, Amsterdam, by BETA.

Three Generation House, Amsterdam, by BETA. 

(Image credit: Photography: Ossip Van Duivenbode)

The Ideal City ikea book Atelier Masomi

Regional Market, Dandaji, by Atelier Masomi

(Image credit: Photography: Maurice Ascani)

The Ideal City ikea book BIG

Superkilen park, Copenhagen, by BIG, Topotek1 and Superflex. 

(Image credit: Photography: Iwan Baan)


The Ideal City, SPACE10 & gestalten, €35.



Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.