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Gruvanläggning och vindflöjel i Svappavaara, 1964-1965. Arkitekt: Örjan Lüning. Fotografi: Rolf Dahlström.

Mind the mining

Kiruna – a city in the northernmost part of Sweden – is experiencing one of the biggest urban transformation projects in recent history. The city centre is being relocated three kilometres northeast due to the extension of the iron ore mine around which Kiruna was built.

A third of the city population must relocate, housing blocks and landmark buildings are being demolished or moved, and a new city is taking shape. But how do you move a city? Together with ArkDes Collections, we took a dive into our collections to find key events in the story of how, and why, Kiruna is being moved. And we’re starting where it all began, in the mine.


Iron Ore Hoisting in Kiruna, 1960. Architect: Hakon Ahlberg, Illustration: Gustav Kull.

Iron Ore Hoisting
In 1891 the first house in the new city of Kiruna was built, a place commissioned by the mining company LKAB (Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB) for storage and to accommodate workers. A few years later, Kiruna benefitted from an urban plan designed by Per Olof Hallman, and a larger city began to take shape. Many buildings in present day Kiruna have been built by LKAB, who invested heavily in the built environment and commissioned some of the most prominent architects of the time to realise its buildings. One example is the iron ore hoisting and separation plant, built as a consequence of the transition from overground to underground mining. It was designed by Hakon Ahlberg and constructed using reinforced concrete,clad with aluminium.

LKAB Kiruna Office, 1960’s. Architect: Hakon Ahlberg. Unknown photographer.

LKAB Kiruna Office
In the 1950s, times were good for Swedish industry – including LKAB. With the transition to underground mining came an increased need for staff at the office in Kiruna. The 13-storey slab, designed by Hakon Ahlberg, was inaugurated in 1960. The setting, with the open cut mine next to it and the Kiirunavaara mountain as a backdrop, is spectacular. The sheer size of the building, as well as its design, tells of the success that the company was having at the time. Beyond the powerful entrance structure, this is a rational building designed according to practical needs. Today it houses LKAB’s Northern Division and will be spared from demolition in the current relocation of the city. In one of the photographs architect Hakon Ahlberg (to the right) is seen leaving the office building with two (unknown) men.

Mining facility and wind organ in Svappavaara, 1964-65. Architect: Örjan Lüning. Photo: Rolf Dahlström.

Mining facility in Svappavaara
In the mid 1960’s, LKAB opened a mine in Svaapavaara, a small town just outside of Kiruna. The architect Ralph Erskine was commissioned to design workers’ housing. In addition, the town was given an indoor swimming pool and a football pitch. The architect Örjan Lüning designed buildings needed for the operation of the open cut mine. His close attention to form and detail is evident in these photographs by Rolf Dahlström. In addition to the actual plant, Lüning was also commissioned to design a public art piece. His 26 metre-high wind organ resonates with the sound of the Arctic winds.


About the exhibition

Kiruna Forever examines the current relocation of the city exhibiting over 100 works by architects, urban planners and artists who have transformed the community and addressed the challenges that have shaped the region – from the first industrial development and onward into the future. Learn more about our collections by following our collection’s account in Instagram here.