New town hall for community on the move

4 December 2018
  • Peter Rosen
  • Peter Rosen



Henning Larsen creates ‘living room’ in relocated town

King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden has officially opened Kiruna’s new town hall, designed by Henning Larsen as the centrepiece of an ambitious project to relocate an entire town three kilometers east of its original site. Kiruna lies 95 miles north of the Arctic Circle, on top of the largest iron ore mine in the world. Unfortunately, the mining activity that sustains the town also caused destabilisation that resulted in sinkholes and rifts expected to render the area uninhabitable. In response, mining firm Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara devised a solution to move Kiruna, with a design competition launched in 2012 for the town hall as its first building.

Competition winners Henning Larsen, together with firms Temagruppen, WSP and UiWE, intended their design to act as a tribute to Kiruna’s history, as well as providing an open and accessible 'living room' for emerging communities. This approach was important in the context of a project that involves uprooting generations of local heritage and disrupting tight-knit neighborhoods. “Community identity often has real geographic roots,” stated Henning Larsen Partner and Design Principal 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.”

Named Kristallen, or “The Crystal,” the building is inspired by the angular geometry of iron minerals that are fundamental to the town’s identity as a mining community. The outer area contains office space for the public departments of Kiruna Municipality, while the core is reserved for social space, including public exhibition halls, workshops and meeting rooms. Alice Bah Kuhnke, Swedish Minister of Culture and Democracy, stated: "I hope that the Crystal will succeed in becoming a place where people meet - on the foundation of small and big topics, private or political, local or global, that concerns all of us.” 

Lucy Nordberg
TenderStream Head of Research

This competition was first published by TenderStream 05.10.2012 here

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