Kiruna’s new city center is taking shape

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - October 21, 2021
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Sweden’s northernmost city was once built to house the people working in Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara (LKAB) iron ore company. Over the years, the mine expanded and is today by far the largest iron ore company in Europe. The underground mining tunnels, however, create cracks that jeopardize existing buildings and one day eventually will swallow the old city center.

A decision was made to relocate the city center and in 2013 architects presented a master plan for a location three kilometers to east. For locals, moving the houses and practically demolishing a larger part of the urban areas came without big protests.

Closing the 120-year-old iron ore mine was out of question. After all, LKAB is still the main source of employment in Kiruna. Also, the state owned company is paying to move the town.

Kiruna has 18,000 inhabitants and some 6,000 people’s homes are affected by the move. So is the center, including the town hall, municipal offices, the largest hotel, the central square and shops.

Architects have designed the new urban areas with Arctic climate in mind. Narrow shopping streets and tall buildings protect against snowy winds mid-winter.

The new railway station is already opened. This winter, the first 60 apartments next to the new town square are ready and soon the landmark hotel with Kiruna’s first sky bar will be able to welcome its first guests.

Named “The Crystal,” the new city hall hosts the council chamber, service offices for the inhabitants, meeting rooms and exhibition rooms for regional art.

The symbolic iron tower clock, originally built in 1963, was moved from the old city hall to its new location in 2018, marking the first start of construction of Kiruna’s new sky line.

Building a brand new city center allowed planners to reconsider modern needs, and they made plans with a greater focus on sustainability and energy efficiency. In open spaces, pedestrians and public transport are given priority rather than cars.

Some of the old wooden buildings are already moved and others will follow. By 2025, church will be moved. The church, more than 100 years old, is one of the biggest wooden buildings in Sweden.