After AI-assisted exploration, SPACE10 has launched a new seating design that will have you re-thinking everything you thought about sofas. The IKEA research and design lab created the Couch in an Envelope as a way to challenge the traditional design of a couch in order to make it more sustainable, as well as adaptable and easy to transport. Couch in an Envelope, designed in collaboration with Panter&Tourron, begs the question – “Can a couch be designed to go flat, be put into envelope-like packaging, and then carried around by a human?” The answer is yes.
When you think of a couch, the idea of a heavy, bulky piece of furniture that’s difficult to move probably comes to mind. From the start of building to customer delivery, conventional couches take up more room to store and cost way more to transport thanks to their size and weight. Then there’s comfort, a necessity when it comes to a seat someone will be sitting on for periods of time, which in turn contributes to the bulkiness in the design and most often reduces the product’s sustainability. Throw in the fact that each sofa is made up of many components making it harder to recycle, which is why many just end up in landfills.
“This project began as a way to challenge problematic design archetypes. 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. The project is an agenda for change, inspiring the design community to move further towards a couch that is better for us — and the planet,” says Georgina McDonald, Creative & Partnerships, SPACE10.
In lieu of those couches that are heavy and hard to move, Couch in an Envelope is lightweight and designed for contemporary living. Adjustable wings attach to the flat base in various ways allowing for endless seating options, as well as making it more adaptable to one’s needs changing in the home. The design also works well when moved to a new place that might require a new type of seating arrangement. If one couch isn’t enough, multiple couches can be used together to make larger seating setups.
Couch in an Envelope is built with aluminum, cellulose-based fabrics and yarns, and mycelium foam, all of which are 100% recyclable. By using lighter and less materials, the couch remains easy to assemble, disassemble, stack, or transport by a single person.
SPACE10 came up with a list as to why one might choose Couch in an Envelope over an immovable sofa:
1. Light enough to carry alone (from A to B and up flights of stairs)
2. Easy on the planet (made with fewer, locally-sourced materials)
3. Foldable and flat-pack (easy to store, assemble, disassemble, and move)
4. Stackable on a factory pallet (more room for warehouse storage)
5. Easy on your friends (to move and assemble)
6. Modular and flexible (adjusts to your lifestyles and routines)
7. Tool-less and screw-less (for disassembly and recycling)
8. Durable and resilient to wear
9. Comfortable, cool, and easy to clean textiles
10. Easy to love
Pretty compelling list!
SPACE10 and Panter&Tourron came together to explore why so many couches are designed the same way, leading them to experiment with AI to challenge that norm. At first, AI tools continued to come up with the archetypal shape of the sofa when “couch” was used for the prompt. “Outdated, unsustainable design archetypes embedded in large language models are problematic in algorithms, and negatively impacting the future of design. Presently, AI can only take us so far in design innovation before craft, and the human hand needs to intervene,” says Alexis Tourron, Design and Co-founder of Panter&Tourron.
Once Panter&Tourron started to add additional prompts, like “platform,” “lightweight,” “sustainable,” “recyclable,” and “easy to move,” a new series of modern seating designs were generated, all of which are lightweight, adaptable, and circular, while not falling into the traditional archetype.
“Comfort is primarily the main requirement when designing a couch, which can compromise durability and sustainability. We wanted to simplify the material composition, prioritise 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,” says Stefano Panterotto, Designer and Co-founder of Panter&Tourron.
The Couch in an Envelope prototype is on display at the Design in the Age of AI exhibition through November 30, 2023 at SPACE10 Gallery in Copenhagen.
For more information on Couch in an Envelope, visit space10.com.