Although some architects may be known for moving the masses with their jaw dropping designs, few can say they have literally moved entire cities. Sweden-based White Arkitekter recently triumphed over 10 other firms to win an international competition to move the city of Kiruna, Sweden. Over a century of iron mining has caused numerous underground cracks to destabilize the ground underneath the small town, and the architects' amazing Kiruna 4-Ever plan will gradually relocate it over the course of many decades.
Kiruna was founded by a state-run mining company in 1900, and many subsequent years of iron mining since have caused dangerous underground cracks to form beneath the city. This makes relocation an unfortunate necessity for the small town of less than 20,000. The Kiruna 4-Ever Plan is a forward-thinking, yet practical proposal that will slowly shift the mining-dependent town from the west to the east in many stages over the course of several decades.
The Kiruna 4-Ever Plan will first create a new central strip that will run west to east through the current city center. Gradually, the density to the east will be incrementally expanded while the buildings on the west side will be progressively dismantled. Architect Mikael Stenqvist explains: “Literally relocating an entire city, Kiruna will be a bit like a walking millipede with its house and feet – moving, crawling slowly a couple of kilometers towards the east.”
Although the process will be inconvenient for Kiruna residents (to say the least), there are some major advantages to the massive relocation project. As the town rapidly expanded due to its dependence on mining, the city lacked modern infrastructure elements that kept the town fairly isolated. As part of the relocation project, Kiruna will receive a new transport system, including cable cars and freight trains, that will provide better connections to neighboring towns. There are also high hopes that the move will bring new businesses to the area, making it less dependent on iron mining.
Kiruna’s mining days are relatively limited – once the ore has finally been extracted, the city council plans to develop a public park that could be re-established as a new migration route for reindeer.