An easy to carry sofa? Ikea’s Space10 used AI to come up with a lighter option

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK –Ikea’s design and research lab, Space10, has introduced what it’s called a “Couch in an Envelope.” In collaboration with tech company Panter&Tourron, the project reimages the sofa as something that is light, easy to transport, adaptable and can stand the test of time.

“This project began as a way to challenge problematic design archetypes,” said Georgina McDonald, Space 10 director of creative and partnerships. “The couch, as we know it today, is a complicated and high-maintenance piece of furniture: to find and to move. However beloved it is, the couch is often a strain on people owing to its weight, the planet due to its design intricacies, and a burden on the friends who generously help us to move.

“This project is an agenda for change, inspiring the design community to move further towards a couch that is better for us and the planet.’

McDonald said that historically, the traditional archetype of the sofa has been heavy, bulky and inflexible. Sustainability can be a challenge when designing a sofa, with people often seeking comfort first. As such, the conventional sofa can take up space in storage and is energy-intensive to transport. Their numerous components can make sofas difficult to recycle, with many ending up in landfills.

Couch in an Envelope is designed to be light. The team conceptualized the couch or sofa for contemporary living, with the concept featuring a flat base and adjustable ‘wings’ that allow it to flex to the changing needs of life at home. With its modular design, multiple couches can be put together to create a larger seating space.

The design is created using aluminum, cellulose-based fabrics and yarns, and mycelium foam, which makes it 100% recyclable. Since the number of materials is reduced to keep the design lightweight, the couch is easy to transport, stackable and simple to disassemble and move.

According to McDonald, the Couch in an Envelope began with a question about the archetype of the couch and why so many couches are bulky, cushioned and heavy.

‘Outdated, unsustainable design archetypes embedded in large language models are problematic in algorithms and negatively impact the future of design,” said Alexis Tourron, Panter&Tourron designer and co-founder. “Presently, AI can only take us so far in design innovation before craft, and the human hand needs to intervene.”

By using alternative prompts and descriptions, such as platform, lightweight, sustainable, recyclable, and easy to move, Panter&Tourron was able to generate a series of modern couch designs that are lightweight, adaptable and circular, and a break from the traditional archetype.

“Comfort is primarily the main requirement when designing a couch, which can compromise durability and sustainability,” said Stefano Panterotto, Panter&Tourron designer and co-founder. “We wanted to simplify the material composition, prioritize weight, disassembly and circularity. We’ve envisaged something that’s 100% recyclable, without sacrificing softness. Couch in an Envelope is a new generation of comfort.”

Couch in an Envelope can be explored in more detail in Copenhagen at Space10’s new exhibition Design in the Age of AI, where a prototype of the couch will be on display.

See also: Ikea launches new platform looking at future technology

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