Interactive installation invites people to experience three utopian, ”ideal” cities in 2040

In the project, created by SPACE10 and Modem, three speculative cities reveal different approaches to how they addressed climate change.
June 29, 2022

The Ideal City is the name of a book by IKEA’s external research and design lab, SPACE10, and gestalten. It sets out to imagine a better way forward for cities by showcasing examples of fully realised projects from around the globe. 

— In it, world-renowned architects, designers, researchers, entrepreneurs, city planners, and community leaders present ideas on how cities can create a better everyday life for both a lot more people and our shared home: the planet. The book unfolds projects from 53 different cities in 30 different countries — from ideas for innovative food and energy production to schemes for diverse and inclusive housing and mobility. It’s built on five core principles (explained at the end of this text, Ed’s note) that can help guide the cities of tomorrow. Together, we believe these principles are the building blocks for creating cities that feel better for more people to live in. Cities that are greener, healthier, more sustainable, inclusive, and safe. Cities that boost our quality of life, ensure more fulfilling ways of living together and provide more opportunities for a bigger range of people. Cities that are more resilient and economically productive, while tackling the climate crisis head-on, says Simon Caspersen, a former documentary film director, communication strategist, and cultural entrepreneur, and now co-founder and communications director of SPACE10.

The book has now been transformed into the interactive installation, The Ideal City 2040. Created together with design and innovation office Modem, it’s now on display at the city expo H22 in Helsingborg in the south of Sweden. 

— We invite people to experience three utopian cities in the year 2040 viewed through virtual reality binoculars. In the project, three speculative cities reveal different approaches to how they addressed climate change. Coastal City created a mixed and well-planned urban landscape, where everything its residents need on a daily basis is just a short walk away. Solar City took advantage of something they had an unlimited resource of: the sun. The city now powers all of its needs through clean, renewable energy. Lastly, Garden City coaxed the natural world back into the urban fabric by ’re-greening’ the city. They created vast wetlands and lush parks for bees, birds, wildlife, and humans to enjoy. The scenes reimagine cities and share solutions on how to conserve and restore forests and other natural ecosystems, depicting regenerative agriculture and food production. Most importantly, the cities tackle the climate emergency while also boosting both the local economy and the quality of life for residents through a rebalanced relationship with the planet.

The Ideal City 2040.

And you’ve also worked with certain artists for the project.

— Yes, so each speculative city is grounded in a specific bioregion of the world which also influences the climate stressors and opportunities that each city has to address. Together with Modem, we went about finding three artists from different parts of the world with a personal experience of living in a drought-stroke region, in subtropical climate, or close to the ocean in a temperate climate. We found the incredibly talented Sébastien Plassard from France, Manshen Lo from China, and Wanjira Kinyua from Kenya, who helped visualize the ideas for a better tomorrow. They were able to illustrate examples, including the 15-Minute city, how to regreen cities, retrofit buildings, and revitalise land through regenerative agriculture. Through illustrations, the project shows what a more desirable urban future could look and feel like — and how we get there together. 

According to the IPCC report, Caspersen shares, tackling climate change will mean rethinking how cities are designed and function.

— The IPCC prepares comprehensive Assessment Reports about the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for reducing the rate at which climate change is taking place. The report illustrates how staying below the 1.5° C threshold means massive decarbonisation of cities, as they account for over 70% of global CO2 emissions, he says, continuing, 

— This would entail moving towards a clean energy transformation, cleaner mobility systems, more efficient and climate-conscious buildings, re-greening cities, regenerative farming practices, programs to reduce urban sprawl, healthy plant-based diets, and nature-based solutions for urban cooling. But also disaster risk management while protecting and regenerating the natural environment in the surrounding regions, to reuse, repair and improve recycling while investing in a fairer and more decolonised world.

— The conclusions and suggestions from the report are very aligned with our own research and recommendations, which made the installation feel even more timely. We did however take it a step further and also showcased examples like how universal education for all children is also key to reducing our emissions, while also leading to more empowered citizens, more resilient families and stronger local economies. These solutions might be too political for IPCC to recommend, yet we included them — The Ideal City 2040 not only focuses on tackling the climate crisis but takes a more holistic approach that also ensures that our initiatives simultaneously lead to a better everyday life for the many people in our cities. The hope is that by clearly, and simply, visualising how life would look like if these recommendations were enacted, citizens can be inspired to see these opportunities as something achievable. And also something that would combat the climate crisis as well as making for a better everyday life for a lot more people.

Simon Caspersen shares five keywords from the book The Ideal City and how they can create better cities

— A resourceful city manages to be both ecologically and economically sustainable. It is welcoming not only to human beings, but also to other sentient beings on our planet. It prioritizes circular principles, meaning fully closed water, nutrition, material, and energy loops. It builds sustainably and uses waste as a resource.

— An accessible city is built for diversity, inclusion, and equality—regardless of age, ability, religion, financial stability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or political views. It ensures fair and equal access to urban amenities, employment, health care, education, services, culture, business, leisure, heritage, sport, and nature. Finally, a truly accessible city provides affordable housing and access to home ownership, inclusive decision-making with transparent governance, and fosters community.

— A shared city encourages a sense of community, collaboration, and togetherness. It is designed for social interactions through shared facilities, public spaces, coworking and co-living spaces, and transportation. It enables pooling intangible resources too, like skill-share, shared mobility technologies, or initiatives that encourage meaningful social connections.

— Resilience to climate change, extreme weather events, and flooding is imperative for a safe city. It promotes a feeling of safety by providing protection for all, with an emphasis on crime prevention and rehabilitation. Beyond that, a safe city ensures a healthy environment to live in while providing access to resources such as food, water, shelter, and care, and fosters physical and mental wellbeing through access to healthcare and green spaces.

— A desirable city is one that is a pleasure to be in. It is designed on a human scale, making everything accessible within a 15-minute walk. It is a city that encourages the playful side of humans by promoting curiosity, wonder, and discovery. It nurtures a vibrant public life, with access to culture, art, and activities, and appealing public spaces for relaxation, well-being, and learning.

The Ideal City.