Vienna’s new Ikea store, designed by local studio Querkraft Architekten, will play host to over 150 trees. These will be integrated into a gridded concrete, steel and solar panel structure made up of terraces, room units, external stairways and hanging gardens. It’s quite a departure from the big blue boxes situated in retail parks more usually associated with the brand, and acts as an effective visual metaphor for the company’s commitment to transparency and sustainability.

Far more important, however, are two simple logistical factors: its city-centre location and its lack of provision for private transport. Ikea’s new store is a car-free zone. This is partly prompted by external pressures, such as the capital city’s longterm plan to reducing car-travel – few Viennese own cars – but it also aligns well with the furniture brand’s 2019 announcement that it will become a fully circular business by 2030. Ikea has been trialling small high-street showrooms for several years, but these function as ‘planning studios’ and so don’t hold stock. In Vienna, customers will be able to take smaller items home via the adjacent metro lines, or arrange same-day delivery for more substantial purchases.

As we profiled in our most recent sustainable-retail Lab in Frame 130, proximity to public transport and population centres is one of the key contributors to reducing a premise’s environmental burden. This is reflected in certification systems such as BREEAM and LEED. Ikea’s new store reiterates the fact that a building’s first suitability criteria should be location and access, rather than material, manufacturing process or energy system.