Arctic – Danish firm Henning Larsen has inaugurated the new town-hall of Kiruna, Sweden’s northernmost city, just 95 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Sitting atop the largest iron ore mine on the planet, the city center is slowly being swallowed by an underground mine. As ominous cracks appeared on the ground, local planners opted for a drastic solution: move Kiruna 3 km East. In some cases, whole buildings will be dismantled brick by brick and carted off to a safer location.
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This is not the case of the brand-new town-hall by Henning Larsen Architects which is set to become the epicentre of the relocated Kiruna. Inspired by the angular geometry of minerals in the iron ore beneath the town, the circualr building is cladded with golden cubes, and aims to connect the reestablished community the to the town’s identity.
“The Crystal serves both civic and social functions. The outer building volume contains office space for the public departments of Kiruna Municipality, but the core of the building is dedicated social space: Public exhibition halls, workshops and meeting rooms establish a foundational commons for the new city center.” Explains Henning Larsen’s Partner and Design Principal Louis Becker.
As physical continuation of the town’s history, the clock tower from Kiruna’s old town hall has been dismantled and rebuilt alongside the new town hall. The original door handles from the main entrance of the Von Schmalensee-designed building have also been incorporated into the new building.
“Community identity often has real geographic roots,” says Louis Becker. “We knew that during Kiruna’s relocation, losing a sense of place could be a major challenge to the town’s residents. Our hope is that this town hall is not only an effective seat for the local government, but a space that celebrates Kiruna’s history and establishes an enduring symbol of local identity.”
In 2012, LKAB – the state-owned company that operates the mine – and Kiruna Municipality announced a competition to design a new town hall, the first building in the relocated city center. Henning Larsen, together with firms Temagruppen, WSP and UiWE, won this competition against 56 international design teams.
His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf officially opened the new building: “[The Crystal] is designed to meet high environmental standards. It is in other words a very modern city hall, which in the future will become […] a place for meetings, work, art and culture.”
All photos by Hufton + Crow and Peter Rosén – Courtesy of Henning Larsen.