A model of a neighbourhood with buildings made in a white material.

Rethinking space when life at home is changing

How can we tackle rapid urbanisation, ageing populations, climate change and lack of natural resources as well as too high housing prices for the many people? Could a shared living be a way when the realities of urban life are changing?

Between now and 2050 urban populations in developed countries could increase by about 130 million people. In developing countries that number is 2.3 billion. How can so many people live comfortably, equitably, and sustainably together? How can we make living spaces serve more people at once and adapt to their needs? 

We are standing in an apartment in Älmhult, Sweden asking these questions. This is not a traditional home, but a prototype of what future better living could look like. This adaptable apartment with its big sliding doors and movable walls is one of two IKEA projects that explores neighbourhood design for people in growing urban communities.

The Better Living Project together with Ikano Bostad and The Urban Village Project by SPACE10, both focus on the many benefits of living in tight-knit multi-generational communities, such as creating a sense of belonging and providing access to shared facilities and services. 

Activities at home are more fluid between the private and the public spaces today and when we ask people about how they define home many include the neighbourhood where they live.

“Activities at home are more fluid between the private and the public spaces today and when we ask people about how they define home many include the neighbourhood where they live. We also know that we are more connected than ever, but people are at the same time lonelier than ever. This is of course a challenge but also a unique opportunity. This is why we are, together with Ikano Bostad and SPACE10, exploring shared living and how communities and neighbourhoods can play a different role in peoples everyday lives,” says Evamaria Rönnegård, Development Leader at IKEA.

With the Better Living project, IKEA and Ikano Bostad — together with COBE Architects — explore a sustainable and affordable living in apartments with products and home furnishing solutions for small space and shared living. Mikael Ydholm, Communication and Innovation Strategist at IKEA, guides us through the apartment and explains how they started by looking at what kind of activities we do in our homes rather than looking at the traditional rooms.

A black-and-wood playhouse on castors beside a dining table with various chairs and two white pendants above.
The Better Living prototype apartment

“Today we eat in pretty much every room, for example. Sometimes we eat alone, and sometimes we want to host 20 people for dinner. In this apartment big sliding doors and movable walls can totally change the shape and the feel of a room,” says Mikael.

The hallway placed on the outside of the entrance to the apartment has different kinds of private and shared storage.

Built-in wall cabinets with wooden doors next to a white door into another room.
These built-in cabinets have electronic locks. You can store outdoor clothes or shoes, and even have goods delivered here. The cabinets also create additional insulation which could reduce the building’s running costs.

“In this apartment type we also explore co-living. Together with your neighbours you could store tools or extra chairs. We also look into storage that could be accessed from both inside and outside the apartment, for example if you have a delivery you could give outside access by a code. The apartment also has two separate entrances, to make it more convenient for shared living,” says Mikael.

What do you think we will share more of in the future, that we don’t share today?

“I think that we are willing to share even more — considering the fact that we need to use less resources for the sake of mother earth. We actually did a study a few years back where we asked people what in their home they owned today, that they would rather share. What came up was power tools, extra chairs for when you have guests and children’s outdoor toys.” 

The real estate company Ikano Bostad, which operates in Sweden and Denmark and shares the same founder as IKEA, brings a broad knowledge of neighbourhood and residential development into the The Better Living project. 

A model of a neighbourhood built in clear plastic and a white material.

“Seeing the home as the whole neighborhood we bring a lot of experience around this from our business. This unique project is a fantastic opportunity to broaden the scope of looking at the whole neighbourhood as the home, says Lotta Sjödin, Strategic Development Leader, Ikano Bostad.

A large bright room with people sitting on stairs and armchairs on rugs, with windows into offices on different floors.

A bottom-floor kitchen with large glass doors leading out to a patio with lots of greenery and a dog basking in the sun.

The Urban Village Project by SPACE10 wants to spark conversations about how we design, build, finance and share our future homes, neighbourhoods and cities. The mission is to tackle some of the urgent challenges we face in our new urban realities, all while creating more liveable, affordable and sustainable homes for people. The project combines cross-generational shared living communities, a lower entry point into the housing market by rethinking the way we design and finance our homes, and an adaptable building system connected to a circular business model.

During Democratic Design Days in Älmhult in June, SPACE10 launched the Urban Village Project to the public to hear people’s thoughts and feedback.

“It is clear that unless we rethink our built environment, our cities will become increasingly unsustainable, unaffordable and socially unequal. For us shared living can offer potential solutions to some of these urgent challenges. The Urban Village Project looks at how we can create new realities that promote a sense of wellbeing and turn the spaces we inhabit into healthier and happier places, all while being more affordable and efficient for those that live there,” says Jamiee Williams, Architectural Lead, SPACE10.

Explore more of the concept of The Urban Village Project at www.urbanvillageproject.com