Here's How Architects Plan to Move an Entire Swedish City


A couple of years ago, the Swedish town of Kiruna announced plans to pick up and move exactly two miles east. Now, Gizmodo reports, they've revealed just how they intend to do it. The country released a short documentary earlier this week, giving a brief overview of plans for the arduous task.

Kiruna is Sweden’s most northern town and potentially also one of its most lucrative. Founded in 1900, the sprawling municipality sits atop a state-owned iron ore mine, which today accounts for 90 percent of the mineral’s market in Europe. When officials realized that Kiruna’s ground was subsiding as the mine was dug deeper (a process referred to as “ground deformation”), they had a choice: Move the town, or quit tunneling for ore.

Since Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB (LKAB)—the company that operates the mine—is one of Sweden’s biggest taxpayers, the decision was easy. In 2004, LKAB informed Kiruna's roughly 18,000 residents that the company could purchase their houses from them, or give them a new, free one in the relocated Kiruna. They hosted a global design competition for a new Kiruna, and by 2014 the winning architecture firm, White Arkitekter AB, had broken ground for a new city.

The process of moving Kiruna will hopefully take about 20 to 30 years. (The town has given itself a full 85 years to fully leave Kiruna’s old site, and has drafted plans for the move stretching all the way to 2100.) In the meantime, LKAB is funding the construction of a new city center that’s a much safer distance away from the mine. Architects plan to move historic structures, like the town’s famous church and its clock tower, with trucks and cranes. The rest of the buildings will be demolished, and their building materials will be recycled via new construction efforts. However, as the video states, the “biggest challenge is moving the minds of people and to move the culture.”

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time an entire town has relocated due to iron ore interests. From 1919 to 1921, the tiny mining town of Hibbing, Minnesota moved two miles south after the Oliver Mining Company decided it wanted the iron ore that lay underneath the community’s north side. Workers moved nearly 200 structures, including several large buildings, and Oliver Mining Company used its money to build Hibbing an elaborate new Village Hall, high school, and several hotels. Today, the region is home to the largest open-pit iron mine in the world, the Hull–Rust–Mahoning Open Pit Iron Mine.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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