Ikea goes on the open source offensive

Open source urban garden and DIY Growroom exhibited at the Copenhagen Opera House in late 2016. © Alona Vibe

Industry giants are surfing on open source, and Ikea is no exception. On February 14, “future living lab” Space10, Ikea’s official idea box, released files under an open licence of the Growroom, a DIY spherical garden kit to grow vegetables in the city. The Danish living lab had initially published its urban garden prototype in proprietary mode in Copenhagen, before shifting it to open source with the support of Ikea, “to encourage people to build their own locally”.

Based on the principle of assembly for which the Swedish company is famous, a basic tool box and some elbow grease is all you need to assemble the sheets of plywood in 17 steps, made to be cut with a CNC at your local fablab or makerspace.

While they opted for Creative Commons distribution, the Space10 designers insist that each share and build of the Growroom must mention the original credits of Space10 and its two architects Mads-Ulrik Husum and Sine Lindholm. This approach, still rooted in proprietary thinking, is a far cry from community initiatives such as that of the farmer makers in the Aker network and their kits for hives, chicken coops and composting containers (which we wrote about here), or Open Desk, a collaborative site where designers offer their furniture files under an open licence precisely to short-circuit Ikea.

Final assembly diagram of the Growroom. © Sine Lindholm and Mads-Ulrik Husum, CC BY 4.0

Waiting for Delaktig

Co-creation and open source: already in November 2016, Ikea announced its new positioning with Delaktig, a future range of 40% recyclable furniture, customizable and open source. On January 29, the company revealed the details of its launch for early 2018. The very first product will be a sofa priced between 378€ and 853€.

All this raises the stakes for the infamous Ikea hackers, the massive community of fans reappropriating Ikea furniture and its applications. In June 2014, Ikea tried to shut down the Ikeahackers website of tips and tricks. Under pressure from online media, fans and personalities such as Cory Doctorow, Ikea finally backed down. Like Coca Cola and Nike, has Ikea finally understood that mass personalization is a powerful strategy for establishing its hegemony? Now it’s promoting DIY culture around its own furniture…

Cutting files and assembly instructions of the Growroom

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