Rebecca Carrai: The IKEA Home. A counter-history on domestic space
The theoretically-driven doctoral project The IKEA Home aims to offer an alternative, historical perspective of the evolution of domestic space by assessing the impact of an often-scholarly-neglected ‘architectural agent’ IKEA, the world’s largest home furnishing company.
The thesis argues that since its foundation, IKEA, an emblem of capitalist, neoliberal consumer societies, has unprecedently impacted the home interior in savvily mediating notions of architecture through a set of craftily-engineered pedagogical elements and communication vehicles, which has allowed it to go beyond its role of a furniture retailer and play that of an ‘other’ architectural agent. Among IKEA’s tools, the 1:1 home model, displayed in showrooms or set up to be photographed, has traditionally played an important role, but also online platforms, the catalogue itself, the Do-It-Yourself model, unfolding from the instore self-service concept to furniture assembly, and many other digital media. In unpacking IKEA’s impact on the home, from the family-led business in Agunnaryd (Älmhult, Sweden) in 1943 to its global expansion today, special attention will be paid to the late 1980s Ikeaization of Italy, a completely different, Mediterranean territory to apply its Swedish formula in.
The project brings together archival sources and recent news and interviews while combining the commercial history with other canonically disseminated histories. It unearths overlooked figures, episodes, and objects of IKEA’s history not to make propaganda, but rather to look critically at what has been for long obscured in architectural historiographies, considered here as pivotal, to offer a more ecological, nuanced, and inclusive account of domestic space. In journeying through histories, the thesis tackles globally relevant phenomena which traverse the field of architecture, such as the multinational’s attitude towards societal changes and gender issues; the contextualisation of global policies into specific cultural realities; the rise of IKEA’s throwaway practices, and its popularisation of architecture impacting the role of the architect.
PhD student working on this project: Rebecca Carrai