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Ikea begins urban planning project

Posting in Architecture

As Ikea is in full-swing planning a new eco-friendly housing development in Oregon, a few questions comes to mind, such as: How much will it be like the prototype living rooms we can find inside of an Ikea? And, do we need an Allen key to move in?

You get a certain feeling that you're getting lost in a craftily designed labyrinth when you enter an Ikea store, The Globe and Mail reports. But the next question is: will that discomforting almost-warmth of a prototype apartment be the same in the prefabricated Ikea housing development that is in the works in London?

The Swedes will place 6,000 neighbors into a neglected corner of a city and design an entire urban world around it that is made of eco-friendly material and appliances. But Ikea's builders say they're not interested in a Disney-style kind of an animatronic spectacle. Rather, they're sending what will be called Strand East in Portland with evocations of a spontaneous urban life that they say they'd be happy to see shift and evolve to suit market conditions.

"We are keeping the Ikea philosophy: We don't want to produce for the rich and the super-rich; we want to produce for the families, for the people," Harald Muller said, the head of LandProp which is the property-development branch of Inter IKEA.

When it is completed, it will look like a reproduction of the historic downtown neighborhoods you find the central parts of London and Paris, with car-free streets that are lined with simple townhouses and ground-floor-access apartments in five story rows. The houses will be fully owned by Ikea, meaning that it is an all-rental private neighborhood that is run and overseen by a private company.

"We're about human scale, we're about building things to a hight design and good quality, because we are long-term investors," Andrew Cobden, the project manager, explains about the investment. " We don't sell income-generating assets."

This means that it is less likely that people will buy, wait for the value to increase and move to the suburbs to become absentee landlords. But there is a risk: without an equity stake in their neighborhood, residents aren't likely to rebuild it, transform it and shift housing to suit the community's need.

" We'd have a very good understanding of rubbish collection, of cleanliness, of landscape management," Cobden said." We would have a fairly firm line on undesirable activity, whatever that amy be. But we also feel we can say, okay, because we've kept control of the management of the commercial facilities, we have a fairly strong hand in what is said in terms of activities that are held on the site."

That, he said, means setting up and promoting things like farmer's markets, antique shops and outdoor flower stalls. Presumably, it means keeping out cheque-cashing shops, Internet cafes and bookmakers.

As the Ikea people repeatedly tell anyone who will listen, The Globe and Mail reports, this place will not be an Ikea. There will not be Paong armchairs adorning the living rooms and Billy bookcases covering the walls. The houses will not require Allen keys to assemble. And there will not, the company insist, be an Ikea store anywhere near the neighborhoods.

For more information on Ikea's development, also read: In Portland, Ikea inspired prefab homes

[ Via The Globe and Mail]

Photo: LandProp Services

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Ina Muri

Weekend Editor

Weekend Editor Ina Damm Muri is a multimedia journalist based in New York. Previously, she worked at Aspen Magazine, CBS4 Denver and the Daily Camera in Boulder. She holds two degrees from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure