By 2050, the proportion of people living in cities will have risen to 70% – an intimidating concept that SPACE10, IKEA’s research laboratory, believes the creative industry needs to address. So during London Design Festival it will take over Shoreditch’s Protein Studios with a week-long series of events under the theme Exploring Spaces of Tomorrow. Under that, a top-notch roster of creative collaborators have been invited to exhibit, demonstrate and speak about how the industry can help build a more sustainable, meaningful and affordable living environment for an increasingly urbanised society.
One of the collaborators is WikiHouse Foundation, a non-profit open-source house building initiative co-founded by designer Alastair Parvin. The idea is that people can download and digitally adapt the design of their own home, then have it produced by a network of micro-factories and put it together, like an IKEA kit. Alastair has strong opinions on the democratisation of our built environment that he’s spoken about worldwide, including for a Ted Talk, and how opening up the industry to the masses could solve everything. “We’re not involved in the design of our homes,” he says. “It’s based on the ‘average family’, and data that has been dependent on centralised, top-down models since the industrial revolution. What open-source has done is show how the small can outperform the large, central giants. Look at Airbnb – no one would have ever predicted that would become the world’s largest hotel chain. And YouTube. It’s not that radical to do the same with house building.
“Half the homes we build are made by ten companies. We can’t afford them, and the developers take a short-term interest. What happens if we put design in the hands of people who live in these houses? It’s the only way to create sustainable homes, and loved and resilient neighbourhoods. If their house breaks, they can fix it. Ironically, the answer to the housing crisis isn’t to build homes, but it’s to give the tools and capacity to small, local communities to do it themselves.” WikiHouse will be taking over Thursday 21 September, themed Portable Spaces.
Another partner on SPACE10’s event is Brooklyn design studio Anton & Irene, who will be presenting “playful research” work with the lab around co-living in the year 2030. The duo came to collaborate with SPACE10 following its interactive documentary project One Shared House, which was inspired by Irene’s personal childhood home on an Amsterdam commune. “It explored what it means to live together and a recently renewed interest in communal living,” says Irene. “That was in the 80s, so for this new project we wondered what it means now, and will do in future. Together we nerd out on trend forecasts on urbanisation!”
By 2030 there will be 8.5 billion people, so co-living needs to be considered in reality, Irene says. “How we choose to live is based on pre-conceived notions, we don’t make intentional choices.” For its research, Anton & Irene and SPACE10 held workshops with the founders, architects and residents of co-living communities, to learn from them and to stimulate discussion. “It’s about intentional community design, and its psychological and physical impact.” Anton & Irene will be speaking on Tuesday 19 September, themed Shared Spaces.
Caroline Till is co-founder of futures research studio FranklinTill, which curates and edits biannual magazine Viewpoint. Its latest issue is launching at SPACE10’s LDF event and focuses on the theme City Futures, exploring how our urban future will influence the spaces in which we live, work, play and create. “It’s looking at the socio-cultural and biological impacts of the creative industry,” Caroline explains, “picking out the key players who are innovating in this field.” The issue takes a design-centric approach to the urbanisation issue, for example how we currently spend 93% of our time indoors. “How is design addressing that?” asks Caroline. “Our spaces can have a huge effect on our mental and physical health.” Also covered is maker movements such as Manchester collective Partisan, which are shaping our cities from the bottom up. “In this way, creatives are bringing life back to cities through cultural engagement, connecting with locals and enriching communities.” FranklinTill is hosting a panel discussion on the topics covered in the latest Viewpoint on Monday 18 September, themed Urban Spaces.
Also joining the line-up is materials research studio Ma-tt-er, which will be putting together an exhibition, workshop and a talks programme envisioning future spaces as multi-sensory. Founder Seetal Solanki explains: “The exhibition will take you on a journey of how materials can help navigate a space, exploring digital material spaces through the use of AI and VR experience, with some tangible objects too,” she says. The latter features a natural dyeing workshop with red cabbage, which Seetal says can reveal the pollution levels in the environment. “It makes the invisible visible and helps you understand the space around you, the local environment.” Participants will be able to dye objects such as tote bags and T-shirts. The talks programme features a panel of fascinating individuals including digital artist Lucy Hardcastle, designer Luca Picardi and Libby Heaney, a quantum physicist and artist. Ma-tt-er is in residence at Protein for SPACE10’s last day, themed Material Spaces.
Other collaborators include Central Saint Martins’ Spatial Practices and Architecture students, futurists’ agency Propela, and pop-up location curators Appear Here.
The full programme for SPACE10’s Exploring Spaces of Tomorrow is listed below, and you can find out more on their website or individual Facebook event pages. It will take place at Protein Studios, 31 New Inn Yard, London, EC2A 3EY.
Monday 18 September
Tuesday 19 September
Wednesday 20 September
Thursday 21 September
Friday 22 September
Saturday 23 September
SPACE10 film and visuals:
Creative direction, art direction and 3D Design: Six N. Five
Creative direction and animation: Sebastián Baptista
3D Design: Diego Diápolo
Music, sound design and mix: John Black / CypherAudio