The Town of Kiruna in Sweden is cracking apart. Like an earthquake in slow motion the ground near Kiruna cracks and sinks in an ever widening circle which is beginning to tear apart the city. A huge Iron ore Mine to the west of the town has caused the earth to subside around the mine at an ever expanding rate, and like an earthquake, the earth displaces in an ever widening circle creating cracks and subsidence and destroying buildings. This slow motion earthquake will last another 100 years has already begin to encroach into the city and will reach the centre soon. What’s the solution? The town will have to move.
The Existing City
Kiruna is a climate adapted planned city started in 1900 and designed with small scale irregular streets and blocks after Camillo Sitte or Kevin Lynch. The winding streets protect the inhabitants from the bitter winter winds.
Kiruna was built as a ‘model society’ in line with ideals that had evolved in Great Britain, and it became one of the biggest Scandinavian social projects of all time. Town planning, housing construction, transportation and education were adapted to the climate and to the needs of the people, on a scale never before attempted. The construction of Kiruna became one of the century’s great social innovations, and something which still permeates the whole community and makes it a site of considerable socio-historical interest. -via Kiruna website
The Future City
The Mining company LKAB have with Arketekter Wilhelmson come up with a new city plan to enable the city to move. It is very interesting. As you can see from the graphics it visually is modelled on cell or microbe structures which define elongated city blocks while also remaining faithful to an urban pattern that’s not gridiron. The plan goes further IKAB published a pdf called New Kiruna outlining the vision for the city with ski centres and glass domed areas. How this progresses in the future will be of interest, as other cities and communities have to adjust to changing environments and deindustrialisation.
The Sametinget or Sami Parliament in Sweden is due to build a new parliament building in Kiruna from a winning competition design by Hans Murman Arkitekter earlier this year. As soon as they won apparently they were asked if the building would be relocatable. I’m not sure why this wasn’t part of the brief as the reloaction of the city is not a new problem. But it would be a shame if this gets in the way of the building of the parliament, as its a good project
Particularly interesting is the way that the building eaves start and finish in the ground giving no traditional elevation, shrugging off the snow everywhere, but also looking like an upturned hull of a boat or deformation of the land, something quite apt considering the possible fate of Kiruna, also worth noting the Ice Hotel is near Kiruna in Jukkasjärvi and Aalto won a competition to design Kirunas’ council building (1958) but the council decided to build something much less inspiring…..lets hope history doesn’t repeat itself.