IKEA as urban planner

IKEA's neighborhood planning plan

As an about-to-get married 20-something, I was glad IKEA opened its first US store in King of Prussia, PA, a short drive from my Philadelphia apartment.  We’ve been married 25 years and are still using the IKEA shelves we bought to replace our student cinder block and board constructions – we felt so grown up!  And IKEA has followed us across the country so we can still buy cheap candles, LACK tables, and BILLY bookcases.

But what about an IKEA neighborhood?  Jokes come to mind about all the houses coming flat-packed and assembled with those little hex-key tools with pieces not quite fitting, of course, but the idea is really quite interesting.

The project will redevelop 11 hectares (a bit more than 27 acres) in east London with 1200 all-rental housing units built following in typical (for Britain, anyway) rowhouses and flats for a variety of incomes and in a variety of sizes.  Busier edges of the development will have office/commercial space while IKEA will encourage such things as farmers’ markets and small local businesses. The whole shebang will be owned and managed by IKEA.  The Globe and Mail says IKEA is

not interested in a Disney-style kind of an animatronic spectacle. Rather, they’re seeding Strand East with evocations of spontaneous urban life in hopes that it will become spontaneous urban life; they say they’d be happy to see it shift and evolve to suit market conditions. It’s not clear, though, how this desire will coexist with Ikea’s desire to keep the place under its control.

Construction is planned for 2013.  Knowing IKEA’s philosophy of trying to use good design to solve problems and reduce costs as well as their good company logistics, the experiment seem like it should be efficient and can, perhaps, give municipal government some hints about how to operate.  I want to see what’s happened on my 50th anniversary.