What if your cities’ foundations are starting to show cracks? No panic, just move the entire town!
It is the fate that awaits the mining city of Kiruna. Kiruna is Sweden’s northernmost city within the Arctic circle. The town thanks its existence to the local iron ore mine, the world’s largest underground mine. It is the economic heart of the region employing the majority of the cities’ inhabitants for the past 100 years. Iron ores are rocks used to make iron and steel.
It is the exploitation of the mine which now necessitates the move of Kiruna. Part of the cities’ buildings are in danger of collapsing, because of fissures starting to spread towards the centre. Moreover, the local mining company wants to dig deeper, making it possible to release some 800 million tons of ore that are still in the ground.
A project of some scale: dazzling numbers
The church of Kiruna was built in 1912 and is Sweden’s largest wooden building, voted the most beautiful Swedish building in 2001.
Moving a town is a vast project involving a great number of actors: city planners, architects, landscape designers, biologists, urban designers, civil engineers, construction workers, social anthropologists… Moreover, it is not something which is completed in just an instant. It will take up 20 years at least. Some even speculate about 40 or 50 years. The city centre and the shopping street are scheduled to be finished in 2018.
Not to mention the cost of the project. The mining company already spent a good 4 billion kronor on the project and has earmarked another 7.5 billion. The company first has to buy people’s homes, for them to be able to buy a new home at the new site. A difficult exercise when it comes down to estimating market value!
A second chance in urban design
To be honest, Kiruna was not the most inspiring of Swedish towns, seen from the touristic angle. Apart from the church, not too many noteworthy buildings solicited a visit. This whole move means there is a great opportunity for urban planners to develop Kiruna along new and well-thought of visionary lines. So the city council issued a design competition, which was finally won by the project Kiruna 4 Ever, by White Arkitekter AB.
And what about the people of Kiruna? Are they sad they have to part with their familiar places and corners? Not at all! The people are quite happy with the move. Apart from getting a good price for their property, they also get to live in a town which incorporates modern ideas for sustainable development with ample opportunities for leisure, culture and sports and guess what: new opportunities for tourism as well.