How Carla Cammilla Hjort creates space as a rebel
Happyplaces Stories (video)
I met Carla at a work session we had with IKEA, but read about SPACE10 long before that. We spent a couple of days in Copenhagen with the international IKEA team to work at SPACE10 as our studio. Carla gave the team a brief introduction about SPACE10, why and what it is together with Guillaume, the strategy director of SPACE10. Who, by the way, gave one of the clearest presentations ever.
SPACE10 is, as they call it ‘a future living lab for exploration and inspiration on a mission to design a better and more sustainable way of living’. IKEA has a vision to create a better everyday life for the many people and acknowledges that to fulfill this vision, new ways of doing things are needed. That is why SPACE10 was set up, rooted in the idea that together we can co-create a better and more sustainable life. At SPACE10 sets out to explore possible future scenarios, detect potential disruptions, understand global challenges and, most importantly, design for people’s dreams and aspirations. This is done in collaboration with an ever-growing network of experts, specialists, designers and other forwardthinking partners. Based on those insights and learnings, SPACE10 continuously strive to design new ways to create a better, more meaningful and sustainable life for the many people.
In short, an amazing buzzing place where I immediately felt at home and felt connected to. I met Carla in March on a beautiful sunny day. She just returned from a trip so we first had a walk in the area around SPACE10 to catch up. They’re located at the former Meatpacking District, that used to be home to Copenhagen’s meat industry businesses. In recent years, it has changed into a new creative cluster with a trendy nightlife, a broad range of high quality restaurants and other venues.
The space within yourself
Creating space for me is first of all, very crucial for my personal well-being. And it is something that I have always thought a lot about. It is also something that I always have spent a lot of time on, figuring out what it meant to me. I think the most important thing when it comes to creating space on a personal level, is to look at space within myself. By really focussing on and spending time on self-reflection and personal transformation, which has led me to figure out that by going inside and by using meditation as a tool. But also more reflecting and being present in general, creates space to really be me and to dare not necessarily fit in to what is expected from society. Or back, when I was younger, from my parents. And really sort of question whether the way we do things and the way we are setting things up is what fitted me on a personal level. And I realised that it didn’t. And that’s why I have spent a lot of years exploring the idea of the ‘rebel space’. And the rebel-space both within and outside, within myself and also around myself. The conclusion I came to was that to become a rebel you need to figure out to go beyond your fears. And not make decisions based on fear, but instead based on passion and maybe even wisdom.
‘By really focussing on and spending time on self-reflection and personal transformation, which has led me to figure out that by going inside and by using meditation as a tool. But also more reflecting and being present in general, creates space to really be me and to dare not necessarily fit in to what is expected from society.’
I would say that the most important space to create is the space within yourself where you feel at home, no matter where you go in life. And where you feel safe. A place where you trust yourself and trust your gut feeling, and you trust your drive or your mission in life. And then pursue that —in the end— pursue happiness and a meaningful life. That space is priority number one. And how does that reflect back out into the spaces around me? And to spaces in general, in public spaces?
Create magic together
I think I have to back in time a little bit. Because my first company ArtRebels, and Trailerpark Festival, my second company, were both founded on the idea and the wish to gather people around me that inspired me. That happened to be in the creative field, a comprehensive spectrum. Maybe because I feel that creatives often actually have a rebel spirit and really dare to question the status quo. When it comes back to people, it was about finding a way to make my everyday life revolve around and together with people that both inspire me but also to together challenge the status quo with, and create magic together. That was the initial idea. So my first logical move when I started the company was to get a big garage where we could come together to things like parties, art exhibitions, dinner experiences — creating experiences. To create spaces where people could feel at home, but also feel inspired and challenged, in a good way. And where we could create ‘communion’. I realised that it gave me a lot of pleasure and satisfaction. I have just been building on that for fifteen years. Trying to finetune how to create spaces that make people dream, that inspire people, that give people new insights, creates space for debates and discussions; interactions. Which eventually expand our minds and our ability to think creatively and also design new experiences and solutions for many things in life.
‘It is tough to create a physical space that has this magic, and that creates that vibe if you haven’t based it on something that comes from deep within yourself.’
Space is very crucial for that to happen. And again, the inner and the outer space are very interconnected. It is tough to create a physical space that has this magic, and that creates that vibe if you haven’t based it on something that comes from deep within yourself. Something that you have an urgency for, something of what you feel is fundamental. Because it is also a flair to create a space that can have this ability to unify people and to create a community of people that come together with a shared mission in life.
For the rebellious part, I need to go back in time to make sense. When I was done with the Danish gymnasium, which is the high school in Denmark, you would typically go straight into university. Or you would take one year off and go to university. But when I was around 17, I started to become interested in philosophy. At that point more in the Western philosophers. In particular the existentialists like Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, and so on. That made me realise that I was not going to go to give myself a further education, but that I would go to the school of life. I would travel around and ask the big questions in life like ‘Why am I here?’ and ‘Who am I?’. I started in Africa, then South America and moved around the world. To become more and more confused. Until a year and a half into this journey, when I reached a place in Thailand where I met this woman, who I went in therapy with. She introduced me to an Indian philosopher called Osho. And Osho was back in the ’70 en ’80 a true rebel in the spiritual communities in India and the world. He was the first philosopher that I met, some would call him a spiritual guru, but for me, he was more a philosopher; he also taught philosophy. His point was: you need to go inside to find the answers. Because there are as many truths and there are people on this planet. There is not one truth. And he ‘preached’ that the true rebel was someone who dared and got to go within to find their own truth. And then not to only see it, but then also follow it through and live their life accordingly. So, for me, the rebel spirit and the rebel is someone who dares to not follow the systems and the societal norms that have been put in place for our societies to function, but also societies that are built upon intricate control systems, and really question that. And then build your own reality, or create your own reality. The rebel spirit in its core, for me, is someone who dares to live his truth.
‘There is not one truth. He ‘preached’ that the true rebel is someone who dares and goes within to find their own truth. And then not to only see it, but then also follow it through and live their life accordingly.’
What our method is, or process is that we looked at the five macro trends that IKEA also feels is the most relevant for them going forward, whether it’s disruption-based or opportunity-based. Those macro trends are ‘urbanisation’, ‘democratic shifts’, ‘political and economic shifts’, ‘lack of natural resources’ and ‘technological breakthroughs’. These five macro trends align very well with us, and they could be used as a good foundation. From those, we defined three central themes, and within those themes, all of our projects should be connected. They are ‘designing for digital empowerment’, ‘designing for social interaction’ or you could say ‘co-existence’, and finally ‘designing for circular societies’. So any project we do fits within one or more of these themes. And then we have four labs. We look into ‘the future of food’, we look into ‘digital and technological breakthroughs’ where we have quite a lot of projects going on, we also look into ‘digital fabrication and distributed manufacturing’ and finally we look into ‘shared living’. So, how can we design the houses and the public spaces where we love to live in in the future?
For me, there is an obvious thing that has happened with urbanisation. And that is the way we have build the built environment. It is made for social isolation, disconnection and with really bad esthetics, which also influences our mental health or feelings of the built environment. And it happens to so that IKEA also owns one of Europe’s largest property development companies. We thought: ‘Okay, they are experts in life at home, and they actually sit on property development, so why not look at the space in between? And think about how we can design for meaningful communities? For meaningful co-living spaces? Not in this classical ‘we work/we live’ model, but we go even deeper and explore what it means and how we could create true communion. That is a significant exploration what we are looking into right now. And from our explorations, and our research, which is the first layer of the innovation process, we then start thinking out concepts that later if we pitch them right, and if we design them right, can be tested and tried in real life. Very exciting.
For me, you can look at SPACE10 from two perspectives. One perspective is: SPACE10 is where we really come up and design new ideas and new ways of exploring and challenging how we do things today. And on the other hand, for me, on a personal level, one of the most beautiful parts of SPACE10 is that it has become such a hub for young people to gather around and within to learn about life in the big picture. You could call it an alternative educational platform. And one of the visions that I have for SPACE10 going forward is, of course, on the one hand, our ideas and projects make sense and can scale, and can influence the lives of many people positively. There is also the other part, which is: how can we even more than we do today, communicate and facilitate all this knowledge, insights, research, amazing people and collaborators that we work with on a daily basis, how can we package that in a way that we can distribute this knowledge to as many people as possible? To in the end create the future leaders for change? We get a lot of applications from very talented people who want to work at SPACE10, and apparently, we can’t hire them all even if we wanted to. But what I thought a lot about is what they have in common. And that is that they love to work with the vision of SPACE10. Which is creating and designing for more meaningful and sustainable futures.
‘So I think, if we would find a way to make an educational programme of some sort, that could also be a way to teach a lot of people with a message and empowerment that can also have a huge impact.’
So how can we potentially use SPACE10 to facilitate the support of releasing their full potential as leaders of change? That needs two aspects: you need to understand the complex environment in which we live today. All the movements that happen within different fields. It is not enough to have an understanding of one, let’s say digital and technological innovations and developments, but you have to be able to look at all different layers of society. From understanding that, and the interconnections between those you can start designing new systems and new concepts that potentially really bring change. So that is one thing: we need to share with as many people as possible. And the other thing is then: how can you teach leadership and the elements of leadership that we need today? Because it is very different to lead today than it was in the industrial age. Which was fear based and based on hierarchical models of leadership. This has changed immensely, and you have to be able to adapt and navigate in constantly changing environments now. And you need to really understand that it is about inspiring and motivating people and to give them the tools and the space to unfold their talents. So I think, if we would find a way to make a SPACE10 Masterclass, an educational programme of some sort, that could also be a way to teach a lot of people with a message and empowerment that can also have a huge impact. So there are projects on one side, and there are people on the other side. We need to do both to really get the full potential out of SPACE10.