Aspirational objects

The rapid increase in urbanisation seen around the world in recent decades is only the start of what promises to be a steepening growth curve. Our current urban environments magnify certain long-standing threats to our health and have introduced some entirely new ones. SPACE10 set out to investigate how everyday objects can improve health and wellbeing in cities as well as reduce our impact on the planet.

To tackle this question, a project was carried out in collaboration with 12 young talents from the Copenhagen Institute of Interactive Design (CIID) and IKEA. The result: 6 prototypes that inspire a healthier and more sustainable way of living. Everyday objects like tables and chairs are our silent companions, but what if they weren’t just passive fixtures and instead could empower, inspire and assist us in developing healthier habits and reducing our impact on the planet?


This was the starting point for the project we named ‘Aspirational Objects’. 12 talents from the Copenhagen Institute of Interactive Design were paired off and tasked with exploring how everyday objects can help us lead healthier and more sustainable lives in urban areas. The 6 teams then had 14 days to develop an idea and build it as a physical working prototype that addresses newly emerging health hazards in cities.

Health & City Life

Global health has seen tremendous positive developments in recent years. People all over the world live longer and enjoy better life quality than ever before. Despite this undoubtable progress, city dwellers face major challenges that threaten their health in new ways. While conditions in different cities vary according to the local context, urban residents face certain common health challenges. These are mostly connected to our lifestyles as well as our exposure to increasingly stressful and polluted environments.

Cities tend to promote unhealthy lifestyles that can cause obesity and lead to the rise of conditions such as heart disease, certain types of cancer, and diabetes. Urban living is also a major contributor to developing stress and cities also tend to promote “convenient” diets that consist mainly of processed foods accompanied by physical inactivity. City folk are especially vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, whether expressed as heat waves, water scarcity, rising sea levels in coastal areas, or increasing levels of air pollution, which alone causes 1.2 million premature deaths each year in urban areas according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The 6 Ideas

The ambition behind ‘Aspirational Objects’ was to create a vehicle for project-driven speculation and iterative innovation on how to improve health and wellbeing in urban settings through everyday objects. The six teams from CIID approached the challenge from fundamentally different angles, but all managed to answer their brief with original and imaginative prototypes aimed at bringing us closer to the lives we aspire to lead.


One group created smART, an interactive artwork designed to motivate people to use less heat and water at home. Using the colours red and blue, the artwork changes according to the amount of resources the household is consuming. The appealing visual component of the design is based on the belief that the interactive and artistic presentation of data will create a more captive audience than graphs or charts plotting a household’s energy use.

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Cloud Burst

In a similar vein, Cloud Burst helps people use less water when they shower without disrupting this important ritual in most people’s daily routine. The users set how much water they want to consume prior to beginning, but instead of the water being switched off when the quota is reached, the faucet glows. This subtle reminder allows users to ease out of their showers. The related data is then uploaded onto the Internet, where users can keep track of their water savings, as well as the savings of their fellow Cloud Burst users.

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Vayü helps keep our indoor air fresh and healthy to breathe. Modular devices are attached to windows throughout the home, and automatically open and close windows to regulate airflow. Using sensors measuring indoor and outdoor air quality, Vayü lets in fresh outdoor air when the quality of indoor air is poor, and keeps the windows closed when outdoor pollution levels are too high.

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Heat Harvest

Another group created Heat Harvest, which captures wasted heat and turns it into free, green electricity that can be reused at home. The heat harvesting pads can either be integrated into furniture (e.g. a table top) or instead be standalone. When hot objects are placed on top of them – anything from laptops and coffee mugs, to hot pots and pans – the pads apply basic concepts in physics to take energy created by the temperature difference and turn it into electricity that can be reused to charge a phone, computer, or any other appliance.

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Clünes is a chair that encourages people to move more. It is connected to the owner’s phone or wearables and knows how active they have been during the day. If the owner has not moved enough, the seat automatically raises itself at an angle, making it impossible to sit on. When the owner returns home and sees the raised seat, it serves as a reminder that they have yet to reach their daily exercise goal and should keep moving.

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Finally, the team behind Öron tried to address the problem of our lack of connection with nature. Their prototype alarm clock doesn’t buzz in the morning, but instead plays a variety of natural soundscapes while an inbuilt fan blows a fresh breeze, recreating the sensation of waking up in nature.

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