Welcome to Ikea-land: Furniture giant begins urban planning project

From the Globe And Mail by DOUG SAUNDERS a report on Ikea’s aspirations as a city builder, or rather as “neighborhood” builders, starting in East London, are we likely to see a sort of giant Ikea store where you choose from a display and then walk out at the other side with everything you need for setting up home in a flat box .. they say not – I wonder… 

The 1,200 homes and apartments will be priced to appeal to a range of incomes, the Swedes promise. A few seven- to 11-storey condominium towers will pepper the area, and offices for high-tech firms and a hotel will fill the busier edges.

There are feelings you get when you enter an Ikea store. The vertiginous experience of getting lost in their craftily designed labyrinth. The surprise of wandering into something you hadn’t intended to buy. The discomfiting almost-warmth of a fake apartment. The faintly reassuring sense that your children and your car are in someone else’s hands. Then the odd realization that you’re really inside a high-security structure on the distant edge of town.

Infographic: Ikea's manual for building a neighbourhood

Would you like to feel that way all the time? The people who run the Swedish home-furnishings behemoth are launching a bold push into the business of designing, building and operating entire urban neighbourhoods. Where once they placed a couch in a living room, the Swedes now want to place you and 6,000 neighbours into a neglected corner of your city, design an entire urban world around you, and Ikea-ize your lives. Their bold, high-concept notion of an urban ’hood could be an important solution to the housing-supply shortages that plague many large cities – but it could take some getting used to.

“We are in keeping with the Ikea philosophy: We don’t want to produce for the rich or the super-rich; we want to produce for the families, for the people,” says Harald Müller, the head of LandProp, the property-development branch of Inter IKEA, the company that invests the profits from the furnishing giant.

These computer generated renderings depict the Strand East development in a neighbourhood designed by furniture giant Ikea. The images are urban design concepts only.

“Our approach must be to get the right housing and office prices while delivering very good quality at the same time, he added. “We want to be smart enough in our design that we can offer the product for a reasonable price.”

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