Dorte Mandrup’s meeting centre for IKEA is evocative of the functionality, efficiency and innovation that the home furnishing giant represents, and encourages encounter and collaboration through an inventive approach to workspace design. IKEA Hubhult in Malmö has been named the most sustainable office building in Scandinavia, and Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter have adeptly resolved these technical requirements with an uplifting and engaging architecture. 
From its overall geometry to its technical details, every aspect of Hubhult’s design is intended to optimize energy efficiency and enhance sustainability, earning it BREEAM Outstanding certification. Furthermore, the building has recently been awarded the Green Good Design award, a public program promoting sustainability in individuals, companies, organizations and institutions. A key part of Hubhult’s sustainability strategy is its emphasis on the health of the 1,100 employees it hosts, with lighting, shading, acoustics and thermal conditions optimized for user comfort.
The building consists of three volumes; a parking house with a solar panel facade, and the office and meeting areas which are housed within two square volumes interconnecting diagonally. The sawtooth roof and corrugated aluminum cladding of the largest volume makes clear reference to the factory typology central to IKEA’s furniture production and distribution strategy, although here it facilitates the production of design through the meeting of people.
The geometry of the sawtooth roof is continued onto the facade, where fixed aluminum canopies shelter the windows and animate the building’s form with subtle variations in their orientation. These strong geometric shapes create a playful character, sitting in contrast with the second volume which is more restrained with a solid rectangular form suspended over a continuous glass facade and centered around an open courtyard. Dorte Mandrup have clearly found inspiration in the design logic of IKEA’s products, with efficiency, simplicity and usability as Hubhult’s primary concerns. Sustainability is consolidated with cost value, and quality with functionality, resulting in a form which is aspirational yet clearly defined by strict parameters - a manifestation of the IKEA brand.
The internal spaces are also evocative of the IKEA aesthetic, with textural plywood surfaces, wood wool ceilings and an ensemble of IKEA’s most iconic pieces furnishing the interiors. The building’s arrangement logic is defined by an ambition for interaction and collaboration between its users, with large light wells and generous staircases connecting multiple floors and designed to embrace encounters.
A more enclosed ground floor of meeting rooms and a foyer gives way to the open plan and flexible upper floors, connected by staggered atriums with animated staircases. These workspaces are designed to allow a variety of configurations and work arrangements, encouraging collaboration and activity based working. At the base of the main atrium is a large stepped seating structure, facilitating the assembly central to the building’s program. 
Dorte Mandrup’s use of a recognizable IKEA aesthetic combined with seemingly simple and low-tech materials results in an architecture that that feels simple, inviting and familiar despite its impressive environmental credentials. Hubhult’s technical aspects have not overwhelmed its architectural ambitions, but rather been enhanced by a reciprocal dialogue between efficiency, usability and design aspiration. The resulting building sets a new benchmark for sustainable office buildings, reimagines the design of workspaces and presents an aspirational image of the company it houses.

This article was originally published on
All photographs © Adam Mørk 2017

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