First sketches for the open source module house being developed at IKEA.
First sketches for the open source module house being developed at IKEA.

Open house at Design Indaba

IKEA is developing a blueprint for a modular house, inspired by open source thinking. The first prototype is being constructed this week during the Design Indaba festival in Cape Town, South Africa.

Recently, IKEA announced a design collaboration with twelve creatives from seven different countries on the African continent and four in-house IKEA designers.

This new collaboration is about being honest and open. This project is exploring sharing ideas and knowledge as a way to fulfil the IKEA vision of creating a better everyday for the many people.

One idea being experimented with right now is a modular house. In Cape Town, the version of the house is an open pavilion where IKEA will do public work sessions – a meeting and sharing point for the collaboration.

The inspiration for the project is African urban space and its need for ongoing adaptability.

Behind the design of the house is architect Issa Diabaté from the Ivory Coast and in-house IKEA designer from France, Kevin Gouriou. It was Issa who came up with the idea of building a house inspired by open source thinking. Since December, the pair have been testing concepts across continents. But this week they’re working hands-on building instead of sharing their thoughts via email and telephone. 

The team have been developing the house using drawings in 3D whilst at the same time having a dialogue with the builders in Cape Town about the best materials to use. The house is open, featuring a metal roof with transparent panels for light.

“The inspiration for the project is African urban space and its need for ongoing adaptability,” says architect and co-designer of the house Issa Diabaté. The house is flexible by nature, based on individual modules of 8m². 

The house can go from being a simple shelter to a full house. It can be a garage, a cottage, a space for workshops (as it will be used in Cape Town this week) or a complete house that can get bigger as a family grows.

We are trying to build a system, that can be appropriated by as many people as possible. It’s not an African solution for Africa; it is true to the IKEA culture and available for everyone.”

IKEA has been inspired by open source thinking, and open source thinking in Africa is very much linked to circular thinking – making things out of what you have and repurposing the materials further on in the life cycle. When the space is not needed anymore, the local infrastructure can re-incorporate the materials. It’s not designed to be made, used and then thrown away. And that’s true for the IKEA house at Design Indaba Festival as well – IKEA will give it away after the festival. Its new owner will be announced later in the week. 

“We are trying to build a system, that can be appropriated by as many people as possible,” says co-designer Kevin Gourioud. “It’s not an African solution for Africa; it is true to the IKEA culture and available for everyone.” It is built using the principles of Democratic Design and will look different all over the world, depending on the materials chosen to use it.

The house in Cape Town is 130m², twenty of the base 8m² modules. It is being built in the central plaza at the Design Indaba festival. Kevin and Issa will be developing another project inspired by open source thinking during the week.  

IKEA starts the activities in this collaboration now. The official launch date for the project is 2019. As Issa Diabaté says “flexibility is the keyword,” but we’re more than happy to follow the journey.

One of the first 3D renderings of the IKEA open source house.
One of the first 3D renderings of the IKEA open source house.

Kevin Gouriou started at IKEA In September 2016 after completing his Master’s in Industrial Design at the Swiss design school ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne. At the same time as working on the collaboration with Issa, he’s creating a collection of lamps. 

Issa Diabaté is an architect based in the Ivory Coast where he’s been practising architecture since graduating from the Yale School of Architecture in 1995. He has a six-year-old working partnership with Mr. Guillaume Ko. For two decades, they have done work mainly in west Africa (Senegal, Mali, Benin) but also in central Africa (Gabon) and east Africa (Ethiopia). Besides practising architecture, he has participated in many furniture design events including the Dakar Biennale (Design prize for the 1998 edition) and Design Indaba (2014).

Design Indaba has become a respected institution in the global creative landscape, based on the foundation of their annual Festival that has attracted and showcased the world’s brightest talent since 1995. today it comprised of a world-renowned Conference, an online publication, a Social DoTank and an annual Festival of Creativity. In 22 years, the Design Indaba Conference has grown to become one of the world’s leading design events, hosting more than 55 speakers and over 5000 delegates annually.