In the northern part of Sweden, on the Arctic Circle, there is a mysterious city threatened to extinction by the pressures of mining operations. This city is Kiruna (go take a look at Google Maps, it's quite impressive), and its foundations could indeed collapse thanks to the greatest iron deposits in the world. In order to face this growing risk, the city launched an out-of-the-box RFP: How could the city be moved?
The Swedish architecture firm White Architects recently won the competition, against fifty-seven proposals, and now retains the difficult task of moving 23,000 residents three kilometers to the east, thus giving rise to a new city, "The New Kiruna," shown below.
The "physical" relocation of the city center and the social dimension tied to this process are the greatest challenges the project faces. In addition to the technical difficulties that come with an extreme climate (in the winter: up to -22 degrees Celcius with six months of total darkness; in the summer: the sun rarely shines on the region), the challenge is in not totally upsetting the existing population, its ways of life, traditions, cultures ... It's a real question of urban resilience that sustains this project.
A City Driven to Resilience?
Do you remember - it's been three years since - that we showed you "an epic of urban resilience" in three parts, presenting the notion of "a return to a functional and socio-economically stable state?" In order to forge a more "resilient" character for itself, the entire stake of the Kiruna 4 Ever project rests on the ability-to-adapt process. The name of the project even takes us back to the idea of persisting "for ever." Here, the idea is to literally move the city. If from a technical point of view this seems plausible, what then are the consequences on the socio-economic level? In other words, does The New Kiruna represent a resilient project?
The city is going to move a good thousand feet. One after the other, all the neighborhoods of the city will be called upon to be destroyed.
According to the architecture firm White, this project represents an "amazing opportunity to transform Kiruna into a more attractive city, both on a human and economic level." And for good reason! The small and mid-sized businesses of Kiruna were recognized as showing the strongest growth in the country, and after several years of demographic shrinkage, the city is seeing a very great demand for new housing.
The epic seems passionate, but it still remains a difficult task to resolve the aspect of the "quality of the learning experience," in regards to the notion of resilience. That is to say, how to successfully inculcate a kind of "risk culture" into the residents so that they can not only have an awakening but above all accept it and apprehend it better.
For the more curious among you, we invite you to visit the official page of the Kiruna 4 Ever project, which further details the technical aspects of this extraordinary project.
Is moving cities to facilitate the extraction of natural resources likely to become a trend? How is your city tackling the topic or resiliency and what should it be resilient of?
Original article, originally published in French, here.
Credits: Data and images linked to sources.