Moving a city one home at a time

Over a century of iron mining has left the ground underneath the Swedish town of Kiruna unstable. Sweden-based White Arkitekter won an international competition to gradually relocate the city eastward over the course of many decades.

Located 145 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, Kiruna is Sweden’s northernmost town. It is also arguably the site of the boldest urban experiment the country has ever seen: By 2100, the entire town of 20,000 people will be moved just over three kilometres to the east. This involves more than 3,000 apartment blocks and houses, several hotels, and around 200,000 square metres of office, school and hospital space, reports the BBC.

The move has been planned since 2004 after the state-owned mining company LKAB, which established the town in 1900, warned city officials that excavating more iron ore would cause dangerous cracks and fissures beneath the city, according to But building only began this year.

The Kiruna 4-Ever Plan, developed by White Arkitekter, is a phased strategy that moves the town a few kilometres eastwards to allow mining to continue for another 20 years. The architects are creating a new central strip running west to east through the existing city centre. The density to the east will be gradually extended while the buildings on the west side will be progressively dismantled.

The architects also want the new town to be more sustainable than the existing one. Their design includes a new public transport system that will provide better connections to neighbouring towns, a denser urban plan, and developing a local economy that is not dependent on iron mining.


Photo credit: Johan Arvelius/Creative Commons

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