For more than 100 years, residents of Kiruna have developed their city center around the world's largest iron mine, operated by the state-controlled company, Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB (LKAB). In 2004, LKAB determined that to continue extracting iron would mean digging deeper, unsettling the ground beneath 3,000 homes as well as the city hall, train station, and century-old church.
In response, city officials have decided to pack up and move their downtown two miles eastward.
Learn more after the break...
The unprecedented moving expense will be paid for by the mining company, who are planning to set aside upwards of one billion dollars — a fraction of LKAB's profits — to cover the demolition of condemned buildings, the dismantling and reassembling of local landmarks, and new design and construction costs.
"The difficult part is walking into people's homes and telling them that they have to move," says Anders Lindberg, information officer of LKAB.
In March of 2013, the 'Kiruna 4-Ever' proposal, by White Arkitekter and Ghilardi + Hellsten, was selected from a range of entries speculating the reorientation of the city for the next several decades. The proposal envisions a new location for the 3,000 displaced homes, several hotels and two million square feet of new office, government and commercial space, which would inject economic diversity into the city's current "mono-functionality."
Kristina Zakrisson, commissioner of Kiruna, is ready for the move. "Ideally, we would close downtown on Friday and open in the new location on Monday. This may be unrealistic but our ambition is to make it as coherent as possible." Local shops, however, realize it is not that easy, fearing moving too early may cost them their loyal customer base. The plan would give stores a ten-year window to migrate.
The massive undertaking comes in light of a global trend towards density-driven city development. Krister Lindstedt, architect at White, understands this to be an opportunity for the city to start over. "Kiruna has built a city that people don't really want," suggesting that the low-density fragmentation of the city has done nothing to grow a sustainable population. This may be incentive enough for them to move.
Planners project a complete migration in 20-25 years. In the meantime, a new city hall will be completed by 2016, serving as an anchor for future expansion.