Officials announced this week that, starting in June, the city of Kiruna, Sweden will begin to migrate. Founded in 1900, the town is the product of Sweden’s largest state-owned mining company, LKAB. The company extracts iron from the nearby Kirunavaara mountainside, and now the expansion of the mines threatens to destabilize the ground beneath 3,000 homes as well as many of the town’s municipal buildings.
The 100-year master plan put forth by White Arkitekter, in collaboration with Ghilardi + Hellsten Arkitetker, calls for the city to expand two miles eastward along a linear axis. This new plan will rebuild the town on solid ground, retain its historical and cultural presence, and slowly wean it off its dependency on the mining industry by opening the community up to new businesses.
Kiruna’s move is to be funded by LKAB and, as of this week, the company has pledged €415.5 million for the completion of the first phase of construction. This phase involves the construction of a new town center, which will be home to the city's historic clock tower, a new travel center, and Henning Larsen Architects' competition-winning city hall. Mikael Stenqvist, lead architect for the project, said “We are delighted to be making the first steps in our Kiruna plan. Kiruna will be like a walking millipede, crawling, moving slowly with a thousand feet a few kilometers east.”
Later stages in the migration will include the installation of an efficient public transportation system, and the development of “finger” neighborhoods which develop organically north and south from the urban backbone of the relocated city. When Kiruna has been completely relocated, the old city site is planned to become a park which facilitates reindeer migration. The mines, when they become exhausted, are expected to generate revenue through tourism.