Scale - master plan with vision
The Swedish town of Kiruna is facing a major urban planning challenge. It is located above the world's largest underground iron ore mine - and must be relocated due to expansion plans for the mine. In 2012, an international architectural competition was held for the project of relocating the city about three kilometers to the east, which was finally won by the team of White Arkitekter, Ghilardi + Hellsten Arkitekter, Spacescape, Vectura Consulting and Evidens BLW with a joint master plan.
Kiruna City Plan: Resettlement as a process
In the 19th century, Kiruna was founded together with a mine. While iron ore mining is of great economic and social relevance to Kiruna, on the other hand, as mining progressed, a serious problem arose: as the ground sinks and the mine is planned to expand, the area above will become unstable and thus uninhabitable. In search of a long-term strategy, the Swedish government decided to resettle the town.
Resettlement is a highly complex, challenging operation and comes with a social responsibility - in the case of Kiruna, it means dealing with 20,000 people and an area of 120 hectares. The master plan developed by White Arkitekter and Ghilardi + Hellsten Arkitekter specifically aims to create a diverse and livable city that draws its identity from its unagitated spirit, natural surroundings and past. Among other things, the plan calls for denser settlement with urban gathering places, as well as a systematic reuse of old Kiruna and a close, meaningful relationship with nature and the subarctic environment. Kiruna 4-ever, as the architects call the project, focuses on a strategic resettlement process that will transform the city step by step by the year 2100. The first phase was completed in 2022. A total of 39 historic buildings could be preserved and moved from the old to the new downtown with the help of trucks and cranes. The planning by White Arkitekter and Ghilardi + Hellsten Arkitekter is now largely complete, and the municipality will implement the other phases independently.
For the relocation of the Swedish city of Kiruna, the master plan jointly developed by White Arkitekter and Ghilardi + Hellsten Arkitekter envisages a planning process divided into several phases: the new city center was inaugurated in 2022, thus reaching a major milestone. © White Arkitekter
Future-oriented mobility concept
Planning that far into the future raises the question of how cities and mobility will change in perspective. After a long period of automotive dominance and functional separation, we now know that it is primarily cities with dense and mixed-use cities are the ones that generate social, environmental and economic sustainability. In addition, according to White Arkitekter, it is necessary to link different modes of transport, activities and inhabitants - in other words, all people should encounter each other in everyday life despite their individual mobility choices. The architects also assume that train traffic will continue to grow in urban areas and that it will be faster and more efficient. For this reason, they deliberately placed the new station centrally and easily accessible in the heart of the new city. In addition, a new centrally located junction, which can be reached by train and public transport as well as by car or scooter, and also on foot or by bicycle, ensures cross-modal networking. In addition, a ropeway provides an efficient connection between the new Kiruna and the existing mine. "Our approach is that passenger traffic can be shifted to fast, frequent and climate-friendly public transport and freight traffic to rail. To achieve this, an attractive public transport network is required," White Arkitekter affirms the mobility concept.
Use of digital planning tools
White Arkitekter uses computational design as an essential planning tool. In the course of planning for Kiruna, for example, micro-climate modeling was used to analyze the environment in detail for long-term planning and to simulate the microclimate in the long term. Jonas Runberger, who heads the Dsearch, Digital Matter department, emphasizes that White Arkitekter is continuously developing its use of computational design to improve its architectural and urban designs: "Computational design is accelerating the change to a more sustainable society: the methods enable more innovative architecture, as well as measuring and quantifying the impact of different resource-efficient solutions and using the right materials in the right place. They help us minimize the climate impact of the built environment."
Pioneering example for the city of the future
In the new Kiruna, residents will be able to live in a safe and livable environment. With a climate-conscious attitude, an interdisciplinary approach and the use of digital tools, White Arkitekter and Ghilardi + Hellsten Arkitekter want to realize a resilient and future-oriented city, taking into account the ever-changing world and the long-term development of mobility.