A sinking Arctic town wants to move itself two miles east, and its $1 billion dollar plan is finally becoming a reality

Peter Rosén/LapplandMedia/Henning LarsenKiruna rests on sinking land.
  • A small Swedish town called Kiruna is attempting to move itself 2 miles east, starting with a brand new city hall.
  • The town currently rests on sinking land that has grown less and less stable due to the local iron mine.
  • In an effort to preserve its history and economy, Kiruna will construct around 3,000 new residences by 2040.
  • The transformation begins with the construction of a new town hall and the demolition of an old one, which was once dubbed Sweden’s most beautiful public building.
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The Arctic town of Kiruna isn’t for everyone. Its population is small (around 18,000 people), its temperatures are frigid, and its location is remote (90 miles north of the Arctic Circle).

More troubling still, the Swedish town is sinking.

As the home of the world’s largest iron mine, Kiruna has a long history of digging below ground. Over time, iron excavations have caused the ground to unsettle, jeopardizing the safety of homes, businesses, and historic buildings.


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But locals remain determined to preserve the history and economy of their beloved hometown.

In 2004, Kiruna came up with a $US1 billion plan to move itself a couple miles east, onto more stable territory.

Nearly a decade and a half later, the town finally unveiled the first of its new buildings – a gold-flecked town hall and community center known as “The Crystal.” Take a look at its design.


Kiruna hopes to construct more than 3,000 residential buildings, with The Crystal symbolizing what’s to come.

Peter Rosén/LapplandMedia/Henning Larsen

Upcoming projects include a library and swimming pool.


The structure was designed by the Danish architectural firm Henning Larsen, which drew inspiration from the old town hall.

Peter Rosén/LapplandMedia/Henning Larsen

The old town hall, known as the “Igloo,” was inaugurated in 1963. A year later, it won the Kasper Salin Prize for Sweden’s most beautiful public building.


The Crystal preserves the town’s existing bell tower.

Peter Rosén/LapplandMedia/Henning Larsen

The Swedish mining company Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB (LKAB) is offering to buy properties at market rate plus 25% or outfit owners with a new property that’s further east.

Only a few historic structures, such as the beloved church, will be lifted from their current position by trucks and cranes and transported two miles over.


Ribbon windows on the exterior are designed to maximise daylight.

Hufton + Crow/Henning Larsen

Kiruna receives very little sunlight in the winter, with residents experiencing near-total darkness in December.


As its name suggests, the building’s interior is shaped like a crystal.

Hufton + Crow/Henning Larsen

The golden walls are a nod to iron ore, which can have a bright yellow hue.


The center includes meeting rooms, offices, and a council chamber.

Hufton + Crow/Henning Larsen

The moving process will likely last until 2040, although some shop-owners expect to move their stores in the next few years.


It also includes facilities that showcase local art.

Hufton + Crow/Henning Larsen

The building’s exhibitions will feature Sámi arts and handicrafts, which are native to the region.


The town’s old structures await one of two fates: they will either be totally demolished or transported to new territory.

Peter Rosén/LapplandMedia/Henning Larsen

In a state-sponsored video, one owner shared her excitement about the project.

“In the city we live in now, we are kind of isolated on separate sides,” she said. “I think this will be a major improvement.”

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