Highlights From Three Years of SPACE10

November 22nd
5 mins read

A few days ago, SPACE10 turned three years old. To celebrate, we decided to take a little trip down memory lane.

Highlights From Three Years of SPACE10

Read on to learn more about how we’ve evolved our cases, from digital fabrication to shared living, to come closer to our mission of enabling a better and more sustainable everyday life for the many people. And revisit some of the projects and partnerships that have helped make it happen: from vertical farming to autonomous vehicle prototypes to an open-source mini house, we hope you learn something new—or stumble upon an idea that sparks a conversation.

Future Food Today

Food Trends

When we started thinking about the best starting point for enabling a better and more sustainable way of life en masse, it was almost intuitive to begin with something we can all relate to: food.

Tomorrow’s Meatball

The first step was to take a deeper look at the food trends and traditions that promised to hit the sweet spot between tastiness and sustainability. That included everything from insects to algae—which led into our Playful Research project Tomorrow’s Meatball, one of our first matured projects exploring the future of food. A visual exploration, we used IKEA’s iconic meatball as a canvas to imagine the many ways we could be eating in the not so distant future. With a focus on alternative ingredients like food waste and uncharted production methods (like artificially growing meat), Tomorrow’s Meatball lays out playful options for eating deliciously in the future—all while keeping in mind what’s better for people and the planet.

“Personally, I am really proud of our playful research project: Tomorrow’s Meatball. We released the project two weeks after opening SPACE10 and we hadn’t aligned the press release with IKEA, so we were quite nervous when it started creating headlines around the world pretty quickly. Medias were writing that IKEA was considering removing their famous meatball from the menu. We had no idea how IKEA would react—but luckily, they have shown us full trust and support from the beginning. Despite it creating a bit of panic in the communications departments in the different markets at first, IKEA loved the project.

The project has since been exhibited around the world, was highlighted by the UN’s World Food Programme and nominated by Fast Company for an ‘Innovation by Design’ Award. So I was happy we had the balls (so to speak) because that was a defining moment for us.” – Simon Caspersen, Communications Director

Prototyping Solutions

Once we realised Tomorrow’s Meatball resonated with people in a big way, we thought to ourselves: what if we could leverage what we’ve learned about these sustainable food trends and actually prototype solutions? What if we could transform our office into a petri dish for testing growing methods and technologies—and eat healthier than we’d ever had while we were at it? With that, our farm was born.

Vertical Farming at SPACE10

We built our own vertical farm in the basement of our Copenhagen headquarters. It was created to function as the focal point of our exploration into food—the little hideaway where we could tinker with growing, distributing and integrating food production in our cities. In particular, it flourished as a prototype of a farm that used hydroponics—a method of growing food that doesn’t need any soil or sunlight and uses a fraction of the amount of water that’s normally required. (Our farm’s automated hydroponic system effectively created the perfect spring day, everyday, by giving the plants precisely what they need in terms of light, water and minerals. The result was delicious, fresh, chemical-free produce, all year round.)

During our peak, the farm was producing 100 kg of fresh food a month. Although we’ve bid our farm adieu for now, it nevertheless played a crucial role in helping us understand how technology could be leveraged to make freshness and nutrition more accessible for the many people.

“My biggest learning from the farm was realising that hydroponics is really just using water as a medium to grow greens instead of soil. It’s a method that’s been used for hundred of years; the novelty lies in the technology that allows us to bring this method indoors. By doing so, we don’t have to interrupt nature and can produce greens all year round, everywhere, with a more efficient use of resources and at a fraction of the cost to the planet.” – Simon Perez, Chef & Food Designer

Aquaponic Farming

If hydroponic farming was our first day in the school of sustainable food production, aquaponic farming was like making it to second grade. Alongside our stacked vertical farms for fresh greens, we built an aquaponic farming system—where we’d breed fish, use their waste as nutritions for herbs and greens, and have the fish clean the water in return.

It’s a completely circular system that’s also one of the most sustainable and efficient ways of producing food we know of today, and it inspired a number of recipes coming out of our test kitchen—such as the ‘taco of tomorrow’ aka one made with aquaponic fishies.

Algae Dome — a Bioreactor for Producing Algae

For CHART Art Fair 2017, we prototyped a 4-metre high bioreactor to produce micro-algae—a touted ‘sustainable future food’ which is, in fact, the most ideal food for mankind according to the UN. If that sounds confusing, the Algae Dome is basically a circular system for producing micro-algae: we collaborated with three young architects to create a structure that, at the end of the day, was able to grow up to 450 litres of micro-algae during the three days of the fair.

Which actually proves why we’re so obsessed with algae and its byproduct, spirulina, in general. Algae is a photosynthetic organism: it uses sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into useable energy—expelling oxygen as a byproduct. Micro-algae in particular are among the world’s fastest-growing organisms, with some species capable of doubling in volume in just six hours. And as we exemplified with the Algae Dome, micro-algae doesn’t take up large amounts of land and can grow in non-potable water and on non-arable soil. It can be grown quickly, almost anywhere, and in a way that reduces greenhouse gases, without putting pressure on the environment.

Ultimately, we created the Algae Dome to spark further conversations around how we can take food production into our own hands in a way that’s tasty, necessarily challenging and better for the planet.

“The very utilitarian and technological infrastructure becomes architecture. It’s inviting, yet enclosed form provides shelter and creates oasis for social interaction.” – architects Aleksander Wadas, Rafal Wroblewski, Anna Stempniewicz

Shoreditch Pop-Up and LOKAL

A few weeks shy of the Algae Dome, we hosted a pop-up event in Shoreditch, London at London Design Week. Over the course of six days, we examined the concept of space from different perspectives through a series of lectures and events. We asked how we can best design the spaces of tomorrow; how different materials and textures change our perception of space; how augmented reality and other emerging technologies might change the way we experience space; how to empower the many people to build their own spaces; and how spaces can stimulate social interaction.

Alongside the events themselves, people could go next door to experience a project of ours named LOKAL. Essentially, LOKAL is a salad bar whose ingredients are grown indoors, locally and vertically. It’s as local as you can get, and the purpose of the prototype was to test how Londoners feel about hydroponically-grown food. Most importantly, we also wanted to find out if they actually liked the taste of the produce. Luckily for us, people were munching away at our hydroponically-grown salads without a yucky expression to be seen—which further motivated us to keep believing in the power of hydroponics to bring freshness and taste to many more tables worldwide.

“Our pop-up for London Design Festival 2017 is definitely one of the highlights for me since joining the team in 2016. We found a great location in Shoreditch, revamped it into a temporary SPACE10 and had a program of lectures, exhibitions and workshops, as well as a hydroponic salad bar, running for five days. We gathered creative thinkers from various disciplines who all provided their ideas on how to best design our spaces of tomorrow.

What stood out for me as a producer on the project was both the process and the experience itself. Planning that big of a production overseas is quite the challenge, and it would never have worked without such a tight collaboration and teamwork between design, programming, communication, production and construction. I remember standing in the corner for the opening event just as the first speaker had gone on stage, noticing all the small parts that made up the whole and feeling very proud.” – Kajsa Lindström, Operations Manager

The Fast Food of the Future

All that working with food made us hungry, so we decided to start developing a wider selection of dishes to showcase the kind of food we could one day be eating. Of course, they’re fresh from our test kitchen—so don’t expect to see them on IKEA’s menu some day soon. But all of them are rooted in an important principle: they can’t just be healthy and sustainable. They need to be delicious, too—which is where the Fast Food of the Future comes in.

The Fast Food of the Future reimagines five classic dishes for a tastier and healthier tomorrow. What if you went on a late night fast food run to a burger joint and found a bug burger on the menu? Could you see yourself biting into an emerald green bun, made with spirulina? Right now, maybe not so much—but someday, perhaps this will become the norm. And, crucially, this is why we chose fast food as the vehicle for communicating a sustainable and delicious approach towards eating. Fast food is something many of us crave and most of us have a relationship with. By introducing alternate foods like the Dogless Hotdog and Microgreen Ice Cream into a set of dishes that’s emotional and resonant for so many of us, we were able to make people vividly imagine fast food of the future that could be both good for the planet and satisfying for our taste buds.

Open-Source Design

Open Source Urban Garden 

For us, design and problem solving isn’t something that happens in a vacuum. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, which is why we are committed to making our process and design files open source as much as we can. By embracing the open source mentality, we not only hand the reigns over to others to iterate on our ideas, improve them and evolve them: we also enable projects we believe in to travel worldwide—which is what happened with the Growroom.

The Growroom

The Growroom is a spherical urban garden that we first launched at CHART Art Fair in 2016. We created it to look into how cities can feed themselves through food-producing architecture, and to tap into our larger mission of enabling local, healthy food production for the many people.

Crucially, we open-sourced the files: within the first weeks following the project launch, 30, 000 people downloaded the design files. Today, there are local versions of the Growroom as far afield as Dubai, Helsinki, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, San Francisco, Seoul and Sydney. The Growroom is still being downloaded on a frequent basis and new versions pop up every month.

Open Source Furniture

Furniture is something we all live with. Whether we’re industrial designers or simply people who need a new kitchen table, furniture is a red thread between most of us. With that in mind, it only makes sense that as many of us as possible should have a say in shaping how we design and build that furniture—so we applied the same democratic, open-source philosophy to furniture design in a number of projects.

Classical Through Digital

Instead of accelerating the demise of traditional craftsmanship, what if digital tools enhanced it and expanded the possibilities of what we can make? What if an architect could use a digital tool—a CNC machine, say—to create something with a distinctly human quality? Could it be used to make objects with the aesthetic appeal, including the touch and feel, of a handmade object?

These were the timely questions that three architects explored as residents through a project we call Classical Through Digital. With a shared interest in exploring how digital tools can be applied to traditional techniques—and the potential of a CNC milling machine in particular—Yuan Chieh Yang, Benas Burdulis, and Emil Froege together found answers in three very different but eye-opening ways.

For example, Yuan showed how a CNC machine could be used to reproduce a one-thousand-year-old style of Japanese joinery. The machine allowed him to make a 10-metre-long pole using wooden pieces joined together by hands, without any screws or hand tools. And Benas Burdulis used the precision of the CNC machine to create a patterned wall which highlights and amplifies daylight entering an interior space.

This project has passed, but the mentality that informed it remains crucial for us at SPACE10. We believe that technological innovation should enhance the human and the intimate, not detract from it. Classical Through Digital showcased that this is possible. Indeed, tradition and craftsmanship can live alongside technology—and we believe that’s better for people and the planet in the long run.

Open Source Housing

By now, we’d open sourced a few projects, yes—particularly around the very tangible elements of our daily lives, like furniture and how we eat. These focus areas slowly but surely bled into a bigger aspiration for us—a challenge to tackle that wouldn’t be quite as simple as using a CNC machine to build a beautiful piece of design for your home. Indeed: the next big challenge SPACE10 started looking into was using open source to design affordable housing.

Building Blocks

In April 2018, we released a prototype of an open source, low cost, adaptable and sustainable home called Building Blocks. It was recognised by Fast Company, who gave it an honourable mention for “social good”, alongside other awards organisations. As a solution for providing housing, the design is not final by a long shot—which is why we open sourced all of the design files and have invited architects and designers to add to or improve the design. To this day, Building Blocks is evolving and transforming based on the input of other thinkers who believe in solving the housing crisis together.

“Building the 1:1 prototype of the house in the countryside just outside Copenhagen was one of my favourite projects so far during my time at SPACE10. None of us on the team had tried to build a house before, so there were obviously a lot of things we had to learn along the way. I’m particularly excited about the fact that we tried it out in real life and used all our learnings to make the project even better. Building Blocks is not a final solution but a starting point for people to build on. That’s the beauty of open source! Finally, I’m very proud of the whole team that managed to build the whole thing in such a short time.” – Mikkel Christopher, Program Lead

Digital Transformation

From the early days of SPACE10, we’ve had a digital team exploring everything from augmented reality to self-driving technologies, and dabbling in computer vision and a lot of other breakthrough technologies. But most importantly, our explorations within new technological tools have been underpinned by a specific question: how we can leverage new technology to design a future we can believe in? How can we challenge the status quo pertaining to how technology is being developed to empower more people to have a say? Perhaps the best project to illustrate this mentality is Do You Speak Human?.

Do You Speak Human? — Democratising Tomorrow’s AI

Sensationalism aside, artificial intelligence is coming. In fact, it’s already here: we can ask Alexa where the best pizza place in our neighbourhood is, and soon, we’ll be able to hop into an autonomous vehicle to take us to wherever we need to go. But considering how quickly these changes are coming, we wanted to open up the design process around AI and take the many people’s concerns into account. So we launched Do You Speak Human?—an ongoing survey which asks people certain questions about how they’d like their AI to be in the future. For example, should your AI sound like a human or a robot? Should it reinforce your world views or challenge you? These ethically packed questions are perhaps lofty, but they’re necessary for all of us to consider when we think about how AI will shape our lives in the future.

“Conversational interfaces and AI can make technology feel really human, but they also stir up a hornet’s nest of ethical problems: for example, take the virtual assistants that are designed to behave like obedient women, ignore sexual harassment and basically reveal that tech has a “white guy problem”. So, I was excited when we decided to engage over 12, 000 people from 139 countries in the ethical questions around the development of AI and democratise the conversation.” – Simon Caspersen, Communications Director

Do the survey yourself here.

Bridging The Imagination Gap with Augmented Reality

The results of this survey helped inform concrete design decisions when it came to designing IKEA Place—IKEA’s AR app, which Apple CEO labeled as “the future of shopping” in Good Morning America.

IKEA Place

Plenty of think pieces have imagined what augmented reality could mean for the many people. In the summer of 2017, those hypotheses became reality: Apple announced ARKit for iOS11. By enabling millions of existing iPhones with AR capabilities, we could now leverage augmented reality in our own work—specifically, by making it relevant for IKEA.

We were invited to take part in utilising augmented reality to help IKEA reach many more of the many people. Placing furniture in augmented reality has always been an obvious use case, so much so that it’s easily taken for granted. Yet the potential importance for IKEA cannot be overstated. Today, not everyone is on the doorstep of an IKEA store, and nearly 40 percent of people deal with an “imagination gap”: a lack of confidence in taking risks regarding changes in their homes. There’s never been a more essential time for IKEA to innovate and find new ways to reach people. With augmented reality they can suddenly meet people wherever they are. AR is a way to bridge the imagination gap and not only continue to democratise design, but to potentially democratise interior design, too.

To date, IKEA Place has garnered 2.2 million downloads from the App Store and has an average rating of 4.7; plus, Apple voted it the best non-gaming AR app of 2017. People have virtually placed products within the app over 9 million times, and we have over 4000 products available in augmented reality.

Spaces on Wheels

One day soon, self-driving cars may be an everyday sight on our city streets. This would not only shift how we get from point A to point B, but also fundamentally alter the very fabric of our daily lives. After all, if we had a vehicle that could drive for us, what else could we do during the time we spend in a car? Would we even consider it a car, anyway—or would it be a gym, a hotel, a hospital, a retail location? Someone once said that comparing an autonomous vehicle to a car will be like comparing a car to a horse: it will be something different altogether. We tend to agree—so in September 2018, we launched our Playful Research project Spaces on Wheels to help people imagine what that ‘different’ aspect could be like.

The project consists of a few elements. First of all, we partnered with visual trend lab f°am Studio to design seven Spaces on Wheels, from an Office to Healthcare to a Farm. Besides the designs themselves, you can experience what it’s like to book a Space on Wheels in augmented reality through our new SPACE10 app. We also wrote an in-depth report that runs you through the history of self-driving cars and the pros and cons of bringing autonomous vehicles to life.

Ultimately, we created Spaces on Wheels to democratise the conversation around our autonomous future. Download the app to be a part of it.

Future Living

More people are moving to cities than ever before. As a result, our urban lives are getting denser—and in just under a decade, we can expect new, mega-cities to pop up that take the idea of density to a whole other level. But already, living denser comes with its own sets of challenges. Affordable housing is an issue worldwide, for example. Loneliness in urban centres is on the rise. It’s clear that living closer together comes with its own growing pains—but we believe those aren’t impossible to resolve. So, we started taking a closer look at how architecture, design and psychology can unite to enable a denser future that also increases our quality of life without harming the planet. We’ve done this through a series of events and projects that bring contrasting opinions around one table and – most crucially – invite the many people to take part in the conversation around creating a better and more sustainable future.

CAFx x SPACE10 Program Partnership

In the spring of 2017, we partnered with Copenhagen Architecture Festival (CAFx) for a series of talks and seminars about how architecture influences and shapes the building blocks of our lives. Now, we have the pleasure of partnering with likeminded organisations for thought-provoking events very often—but within this partnership with CAFx, we were able to explore topics we don’t often touch and challenge ourselves and our ways of thinking in some pretty significant ways.

We ran a workshop where architects and students were tasked with looking for spaces, buildings, urban areas or city systems in Copenhagen that they see require re-use, re-adaptation or re-programming. We screened four films showcasing the reality of social housing projects across Europe, stimulating conversations around building for a healthy relationship between residents. Thanks to a panel of architects and experts, we confronted the role architecture plays in maintaining archaic colonialist agendas and discussed how to resist architecture becoming a system of cultural and racial domination. And we even screened La Haine—Mathieu Kassovitz’s iconic film showcasing the underbelly of life in the Parisian banlieues and the racial and class-based dynamics that fluctuate in between.

Our partnership with CAFx showed us that we shouldn’t be afraid of poking the bear: if we don’t dive into the problematic or ethically challenging aspects of the work that we do, we cannot iterate on solutions that truly meet the needs of the many people.

“Working with CAFx has given us the opportunity to explore our values within architecture while connecting with a vast community of curious designers and architects. The partnership has introduced us to a long list of exciting projects and collaborators and has been a great educational journey for both us and our community.” – Kevin Curran, Program Lead

One Shared House 2030

In late 2017, we teamed up with design duo Anton & Irene to launch One Shared House 2030—a Playful Research project that aims to find out how we may want to live together in the future, when we must start sharing space and resources more than we do today. Designed as an online application form for a hypothetical co-living space opening in 2030, it asks which goods and services—including kitchens, workspaces, smart devices, childcare and self-driving cars—potential applicants would be willing to share, and what kind of co-living space would uniquely suit them.

With shared living growing in popularity, the aim of the project is to get a better sense of what people would like their ideal co-living space to look like as a first step in the design journey.

To date, almost 14,000 people from 147 countries have responded and, so far, every single person would be willing to share at least something. For example, we learned that the main reason that most find shared living attractive is because it creates new ways of socialising with others and opens up room to live with diverse people. A lack of privacy remains a top concern, of course—but hopefully with projects like OSH2030, perhaps we’ll generate enough data about people’s desires to be able to act on responding solutions.

One Shared House 2030 became the biggest pool of data on how people would like to co-live. Today, it informs design decisions around the world. It’s also showcased in the London Design Museum’s latest group exhibition, Home Futures.

Designing for Shared Living: Lecture Series

Earlier this year, we launched a lecture series as a continuation of our ongoing exploration into creating shared-living models that work for the many people. Over spring and summer 2018, we hosted urban designers, planners, architects, students and more in our space to talk about everything from designing for personal wellbeing to fostering more satisfying communities in our cities.

While the lectures were useful on their own, it’s what we took away from them as a whole that influenced us in a big way. Designing for Shared Living showed us that the shared living agenda doesn’t just apply to where we eat breakfast and lay our heads to rest at night: it’s about mental health, equality, democracy, resource management and happiness—values that matter to so many of us and are fundamental to understanding how we can design shared living in the future.

“In general, SPACE10 lectures aim to educate our community and empower it to drive positive change. The shared living series explored alternatives to today’s housing offers. We invited 14 speakers from 7 countries with varying backgrounds. We dove into solutions to better fit our ageing populations, how shared space can improve people’s psychological and emotional well-being, and understood how the physical surroundings that we encounter and interact with on a daily basis can reflect and support our needs and the importance of community.

It was so energising to see the passion that people approached the topic of shared living with. It’s clear people are empowered to discuss, debate and help make changes to the way we live today. They want to have a say and they are ready to share.” – Jamiee Williams, Architectural Lead

IMAGINE: Exploring the Brave New World of Shared Living

As a culmination of everything we’ve learned so far about shared living, we took September 2018 to launch IMAGINE—a publication and podcast exploring the brave new world of Shared Living.

From exclusive articles and interviews to thought-provoking ideas and case studies, IMAGINE investigates both prevailing trends and best practices in the exciting new field of Shared Living. Our four-episode podcast, produced with Copenhagen-based production studio Unsinkable Sam, extends this mission. It takes listeners on a whistle-stop tour of the shared living landscape and features interviews with architects, anthropologists, designers and urban planners.

Together, the publication and podcast seek to inspire people to rethink how to design our future homes, neighbourhoods and cities to improve our quality of life and tackle some of the pressing challenges we expect to face in our new urban realities.

Download the publication here and the podcast here.

What’s Next?

There you have it—a crash course through some of the projects and partnerships we’re most proud of that we’ve explored throughout the past three years. These are just some highlights, though: if you’re curious about what else we’ve been up to, check out our Program, our Cases and some new and old articles.

So, what’s next? We’ll be unfolding new projects and initiatives in the next little while, so keep your eyes peeled for more from us. And do get involved, whether through our Program or by checking out our projects. After all, we don’t have all the solutions at SPACE10. If we’re going to enable a better and more sustainable future for the many people, we need to do so together.