Just as Walmart has Bentonville
and Neiman Marcus has Dallas, the world’s most prolific seller of frozen meatballs
and flat-pack coffee tables, IKEA, will always have Älmhult.
If you’re at all familiar with the super-complicated corporate structuring of IKEA, you’re probably aware that Älmhult, a modest, agriculture-centric outpost located in the Swedish province of Småland (yes, they named the store’s in-house crèche after it), is no longer home to the retailer's main corporate headquarters.
Still, Älmhult is very much a cultish quasi-company town
and the proud ancestral home of IKEA — it’s where, in 1958, a wiz kid from the sticks named Ingvar Kamprad opended the first brick and mortar outpost of his successful mail-order furniture company.
And, starting next year, Älmhult will be home to a new museum housed in the original IKEA store.
Michele Acuna, managing director of the site for the future museum, explains to AFP: “The first IKEA store was opened here in Älmhult, and in 2012 it moved to a new site. That gives us the opportunity to use this building for a museum. We intend to tell stories not only on our product range but also on how the IKEA business developed and about people, and of course to give a fun and interactive experience to visitors."
IKEA anticipates that the 115,000-square-foot museum will draw 200,000 annual visitors to this decidedly non-touristy stretch of southern Sweden where any existing tourism is already primarily IKEA-related — Acuna specifically singles out IKEA devotees from Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands (current home to IKEA corporate headquarters) as showing “interest in our history of 70 years.” And to be clear, there already is a relatively small “IKEA Thoughout the Ages” museum in Älmhult that’s located across the street from the now-vacant flagship store in the basement of the 151-room Värdshuset IKEA Hotell & Restaurang
according to the Småland tourism website
This leaves us with the burning question: what
specific exhibits and features will the new museum include? The Guardian
has some fine ideas:
Yes, the evolution of the Billy bookcase line would make a genuinely interesting exhibit, and the Tirup armchair — forever straddling the line between physical beauty and total ergonomic impracticality — deserves pride of place in the new museum. But at the same time, wouldn't it be nice to visit a shimmering Willy Wonka-style World Of Meatballs restaurant? Or better yet: a zone where kids can try and emulate their parents by constructing miniature flatpack wardrobes based on abstract line-drawings by a stranger they'll come to irrationally hate, with the incorrect number of nuts, using a kitchen knife instead of a screwdriver and a shoe instead of a hammer, until 3am, at which point they'll swear furiously and give up and spend the rest of their lives using a wardrobe with a wonky door that will for ever stand as a monument to their own desperate technical ineptitude.
Also, the museum totally needs a hedge maze that mimics that layout of a typical IKEA store complete with piped-in 90s pop music and sweat-caked, double stroller-pushing mothers lurking around every corner. Also, a two-story statue of Ingvar Kamprad composed entirely of upcycled Allen wrenches.
Would you consider making a pilgrimage to Älmhult? Or are you holding out for the Bjarke Ingels-designed LEGO "experience center"
to open in that Scandinavian import’s birthplace of Billund, Denmark?