Kiruna is a small Swedish town located 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, which recently entered the news as the host of the opening event for the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2023. However, the picturesque settlement is quite remarkable for something else entirely – it holds present physically changing its location, a process that even includes dismantling some buildings and reassembling them again in the new location.
The unusual project has been deemed necessary due to the presence of an expanding nearby mine, which has threatened the ground stability of the foundation. Basically, the city is sinking.
A city in motion
Kiruna Mine is the world’s largest underground ore mine and also a source of rare earths. It developed at the end of the 19Th century and its existence necessitated the creation of a new town to house the miners. It was officially founded in 1900, and now some 120 years later it is packing up and changing address.
The conversion actually started already in 2013 and is an ongoing process that is expected to be completed in 2035, when Kiruna will be located a few kilometers to the east.
Its new city center was inaugurated in September 2022 with a brand new city hall. There are already residential blocks under construction, so at the moment the city of Kiruna can be said to exist in two distinct locations at the same time.
Some of the buildings will be demolished, but there is a list of historically significant or important buildings that are planned to be preserved. These will be dismantled and then reassembled at the new location.
A notable example among the latter is Kurinakyrkan, built in 1912, which thanks to its modernist design has been considered among the most beautiful buildings in all of Sweden.
Kiruna has about 23,000 inhabitants populating a territory the size of Slovenia.
It is located in a protected landscape that attracts many tourists as it includes birch forests, alpine tundra, seven rivers and 6,000 lakes.