The headquarters of design thinktank Space10 in the trendy Kødbyen area of Copenhagen are located in an old fish distribution centre. However, the smell of fish is long gone. The spirit of innovation is tangible in Space10’s creative and versatile work – with no obvious connection to the world’s largest furniture manufacturer.

Space10 was set up in 2014 as an external lab to explore ideas outside the main business for Swedish interior giant Ikea. Being built on the premise of improving people’s everyday lives, it is no surprise that the same spirit runs through the work of Space10.

The Space10 innovation hub in Copenhagen
The Space10 innovation hub in Copenhagen.
Photo: Alastair Philip Wiper

“Space10 is more than the design, production and distribution of furniture,” Simon Caspersen, Space10’s passionate communications director, sums it up. “We explore how Ikea can live up to their vision in a real way. We look at what is actually happening – with big trends, how the world is changing and how this is impacting all of us.”

Staff member of Space10 relaxing on a daybed
The team’s work ranges from life hacks to art and futuristic design.
Photo: Alastair Philip Wiper

The office space itself is a something of a designers’ playground. The ground floor of the former fish distribution centre is a complete open space with floor-to-ceiling windows. When Space10 moved in, it had been recently emptied of fish and lobsters and was made up of a series of smaller rooms, which the architects knocked through to create both a work and an event space. Upstairs, in the light-flooded main office area, the desks are interspersed with plants. A little ‘treehouse’ above the desk area offers space for people to relax.

Caspersen, one of the co-founders of Space10, explains the overall goal. “We don’t start with Ikea, we start with the world. What are the big challenges we need to address as humans? We come up with good ideas and prototypes. Ikea has the muscle and scale to take these out into the world.”

Gaze out of the window from the Space10 office
Storage? Work space? Retreat?
Photo: Alastair Philip Wiper

Rethinking urban food infrastructures

Among a variety of topics, the team at Space10 delved into the future of food. After researching trends, they began to play around with hydroponic farms and artificial light. Using up to 90% less water and requiring less space – as the food is grown verticallyurban farming systems have the potential to revolutionize food infrastructures in the city.

“Food is one of the biggest challenges the world faces as we will need a lot more food in a short time,” Caspersen points out. The way we currently produce food is not sustainable.”

People dining at a long table
Space10 is proud of its large creative community.
Photo: Space10

With Tomorrow’s Meatball, Space10 are also looking at innovating the humble meatball, a fan favorite at Ikea’s in-house restaurants. The team approached this by exploring ways of producing the item without meat and in a more sustainable way. “Whilst we use other types of protein to create meatballs, such as mealworms, we need to be real about it,” Caspersen stresses. “It still has to look and taste delicious, although the ingredients can cause a stir with new audiences!”

Growroom modular in an entrance hall
Growroom: a modular open-source design.
Photo: Space10

With their idea of the Growroom, an open-source, spherical garden, Space10 takes the food issue one step further, enabling people to grow food locally and sustainably. The idea however came from a completely different project.

Space10 was working on a smart shower faucet to help reduce water consumption. A random comment about how much water is needed to produce a burger patty led the team to look at tackling food production in a way that would save water.

Small table with casters and plants on it
Ikea products are likely to get hacked.
Photo: Alastair Philip Wiper

A good example for Space10’s unique way of working. “We look at a big challenge, do the research, development, create prototypes, and trials in the real world. Then we share it so that if another company thinks it is a great idea, they can take it and invest in it. It is very open and democratic,” says Caspersen.

We need to surround ourselves with people smarter than we are

Working with a deliberately small and familiar team, Space10 knows how to access outside knowledge. A program of residencies opens up opportunities for designers, architects or engineers. “It is impossible to build up all the knowledge we need in-house,” Caspersen explains. “We have residencies from a variety of disciplines. The people we bring in often work on their own projects but we give them the means and support to develop them.”

Audience at a panel talk during an exhibition
Space10 frequently hosts talks and exhibitions.
Photo: Victor Stawicki

Recently, Space10 worked with architects with a passion for affordable housing. They were tasked with developing an open-source house, that could be built by anyone in the world. Since its launch in May 2018, the plans for “Building Blocks” have been downloaded 34,000 times.

A Man browsing through an exhibition catalogue
The events are popular – and quickly sell out.
Photo: Victor Stawicki

Within the theme of sharing knowledge, Space10 runs a couple of events a week. “We were hearing from inspiring people and we wanted more people to hear what they had to say,” says Caspersen. “This evolved from an informal stage to design lectures on a variety of topics and they usually sell out in hours.”

As the Copenhagen thinktank demonstrates, urban change has many facets – to go and create, in playful, inclusive ways, is the greatest strength of Space10.

Click here for further information about Space10.