This January, Sweden’s northernmost town of Kiruna, 145 kilometres into the Artic Circle has decided to move itself 4km in order to save itself from sinking into cracks created by the worlds largest iron ore mine. Kiruna grew thanks to the mine but the industry that created the town threatened to eventually consume it.
Most houses in the affected area will be loaded onto large trailers and driven to a new location nearby.
Moving the city hall, however, may require more effort.
“We have to cut it into six pieces. And then we find somewhere to put it for another 100 years,” said Karl Wikstrom, a spokesman for the state-owned LKAB iron ore company, in a manner that suggested City Hall dissection was an everyday matter.
A similar solution may have to be devised for the town’s wooden church that dates back to 1913.
Further armchair tourism reveals an even more bizarre landscape. Above the town, the northern lights pulse across the sky – and indeed it is home to a center for study the Aurora Borealis. Between May 30 and July 14 it experiences midnight sun.
Kirunas environment not only reaches down into the earth crust but also upwards into space. 45 miles north of the town is Esrange, Europe’s only civilian rocket base, a rocket launch site with seven permanent pads able to launch the largest sounding rockets, including the Black Brant 9, Skylark 12, and Castor 4B-boosted vehicles.
Close by is the site of the >> Ice Hotel <<, built each year out of clear ice from the River Torne. Perhaps the perfect place to stay if you fancy studying Kirunas surrealist on-the-move urbanism.
The Kiruna landscape crunches together arctic wilderness and gigantic man-made intervention. even fundamentals, such as the earth, architecture and elements remain in a state of flux. River becomes hotel, buildings migrate, ground level simply a datum to measure distance up or down. The references and urban strategies verge on the fantastical. It suggests that a town might be made with alternative kinds of logic and components. A place whose character is derived from strategies that fall well beyond the traditional concerns of an urban planner, from science fiction, from Gordon Matta Clarks chainsawed buildings or the Moomins fantasy landscape.