Cover of "The Ideal City" book

Cover of "The Ideal City"

Editor’s note: The following article is based around the ideas and pillars in the newly released book, The Ideal City, which explores the ambitious actions and initiatives being brought to life across the globe to meet tomorrow’s demand in clever, forwarding-thinking ways. From pedestrian infrastructure to housing, the book uncovers what is being discussed at the forefront of urbanism through expert essays and profiles.

We believe the Ideal City touches on five main pillars that can help in shaping a better city for tomorrow. It should be resourceful, accessible, shared, safe, and desirable.

  1. Resourceful. A city should ideally be self-sufficient and circular, which means both ecologically and economically sustainable. 

Copenhagen is a great example of a resourceful city, and we spoke with Danish architect Bjarke Ingels who has numerous examples of projects around the world with a nod to resourcefulness. In Copenhagen, his work includes CopenHill, the waste to energy plant that is topped by hiking paths and an artificial ski slope, and Urban Rigger, an energy-efficient complex made from freight containers that center around a communal courtyard, floating on water, designed as a solution for affordable student housing. 

The Schoonschip in Amsterdam is one such unique floating city that is powered by solar panels coupled with batteries to power their electrical needs and uses the water from the canal to support their heating requirements. They also have a regenerative greywater recycling system that recycles the water from the toilets and showers.  

  1. Accessible: An accessible city is built for diversity, inclusion, and equality while providing affordable housing for all in mixed neighborhoods.  

In Hidalgo, Mexico, we explored the Apan Housing Laboratory, a collection of 32 unique houses within one neighborhood. Each home was built by a different architect and studio, to explore designs that could be easily reproduced and adapted to different climates. The aim is to roll out these homes nationwide in Mexico and create better accessibility to affordable housing.

  1. Shared: A shared city encourages a sense of community, collaboration, and togetherness. from co-living communities to shared mobility.  

Two examples of architects addressing the issues of shared economy and living are Tokyo-based firm Naruse Inokuma Architects and Seattle-based Capital hill Urban Co-housing.  Both look at designing homes for people unrelated and of different generations, with the aim to create a community within the complex to help and share the responsibilities of everyday life.

LT Josai in Nagoya, designed by Naruse Inokuma Architects is a 13-bedroom home interconnected by common areas, but with many different nooks and spaces that offer privacy and comfort within the home. The idea is to make sure that even when you are alone in a space, you are not lonely or isolated from the community. 

  1. Safe: Resilience to climate change, a city that boosts our health, and provides safety for all – not just the majority or a privileged few – along with an emphasis on crime prevention and rehabilitation.

 In the Safe cities chapter, we explore an alternative policing program in Northern Canada called the Restorative Justice and Community Safety. The community safety officers act as peers to the locals because they are in fact themselves locals and so can establish a unique trust with the community. We also speak to Dr. Shipra Narang Suri at UN-Habitat, and the work to implement urban management programs in emerging economies such as Myanmar, India, Nepal, and Nigeria. Other case studies discuss protecting pedestrians in public areas, such as Times Square, as well as creative solutions to climate stressors, highlighting Turenscape and their work in Qunli, Northern China, where they designed a park that acts as a sponge to create a safer, water-resilient city.

  1. Desirable: A desirable city is one that is a pleasure to be in. It is designed on a human scale, making everything accessible within a 15-minute walk. It is a city that encourages the playful side of humans by promoting curiosity, wonder, and discovery. It nurtures a vibrant public life, with access to culture, art, and activities, as well as appealing public spaces for relaxation, well-being, and learning. 

The desirable city is one “designed on a human scale” – for instance, places that make everything accessible within a 15-minute walk, where there is easy access to culture, art, and public spaces for relaxation. Madrid-based architect firm SelgasCano explores color and plant life, bringing projects to life that fill its surroundings with vibrancy and nature. In Dandaji in Africa, Atelier Masōmī built a permanent regional market with canopies made of colorful recycled material, as well as using earth bricks. Not only do the materials cool and make it a more pleasant area to visit, the colors and configuration of the market encourage meeting and interaction, both socially and economically.


Simon Caspersen

Simon Caspersen is the co-founder and Communications Director of SPACE10 - IKEA’s global research and design lab on a mission to create a better everyday life for people and the