Client: Kiruna Kommun and LKAB
Date: 2012
Status: Shortlisted competition entry
Program: Master Plan for a 400,000 sq. m. development
Scope: Urban planning

Kiruna has been a mining city since the early 20th century. The ground has become unstable as some of the main tunnels are located right underneath the city. Thus, the city center and all other areas affected have to be relocated, which means that in a time frame of approximately 20 to 25 years, some 400,000 square meters of housing and non-housing development will need to be replaced. The municipality launched a shortlisted competition to create a sustainable, distinctive and pleasant urban environment: a city center linking together the surrounding housing and industrial areas and constituting the natural hub of the new Kiruna.

The relocation of the city center involves challenging technical and architectural issues, yet also provides the opportunity for profound investigations of natural and human conditions, and a broad experimental research on potential future living conditions in high northern latitudes.

The proposal explores:

New processes of engagement, allowing citizens to become part of the evolving planning process and understanding time as a primary design tool. This approach serves not just a physical purpose for building a new city district, but is also about creating a community and a network to support, care, use and be part of it before, during and after its materialization – as a shared interest and source of engagement.

Making maps of resilience and resistance as a method to gain knowledge about processes going on in the landscape and society. Inspired by rhizome thinking we make use of and connect all kinds of information – both the obvious and what is more obscure – that could be relevant to the process.

Developing new ways of living on high latitudes demands a continuous experimental approach towards sustainability and survival. This means to incorporate flexibility and adaptability and to accept the conditions, limitations and possibilities given by nature and the landscape. The social and physical impacts of long winters are obvious and it is a challenge to create a new, modern city that is so susceptible to seasonal changes. A corresponding issue is the variable light condition, from the lack of midwinter light to the summer midnight sun, which opens up the possibility of using light not just for ambiance and experience, but also as an integrated and deliberate part of the urban space.

For centuries, the people of Kiruna have overcome the challenges of living under marginal northern conditions by respecting and assimilating with nature. The relocation of Kiruna provides a unique opportunity to experiment with the creation of even more sustainable ways of urban inhabitation in the northern landscape.

The project was realized in collaboration with the Norwegian architecture office 70°N arkitektur, the Danish landscape studio Kristine Jensen, the Swedish lighting firm Ljusarkitektur and Atkins engineers.


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