Moving Town

Kiruna, a mining town in Northern Sweden, encountered huge underground cracks, forcing the entire town to relocate. The move has been a decade in planning, and the talk around town surrounds the relocation of the city hall - an important landmark to the people of Kiruna. Wolf meets with Peer Teglgaard Jeppesen of Henning Larsen Architects to get to the meat of the story.

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Peer Teglgaard Jeppesen: Director and Partner at Henning Larsen Architects



Team from Henning Larsen Architects: Peer Teglgaard Jeppesen (responsible partner), Nina la Cour Sell (lead design architect), Grace Xu, Victor Nyman

3D illustrations: Christian Schjøll, Kyd Kitchaiya

Sustainability concept: Signe Kongebro, Erik Holm-Hansson, Alf Lassen Nielsen

The old city hall building was completed in 1963. It is an extraordinary building which received the Kasper Salin Prize in 1964 as the most beautiful public building in Sweden. In this way, there is a lot to live up to when designing a new city hall in Kiruna.

The old city hall has a simple layout, organised around a common central space. It is a beautiful example of how traditional materials such as concrete and brick can be used in combination with a unique artistic appreciation of decoration. In the new city hall, we reuse these ideas, reinterpreting them into a modern architectural vocabulary.

Kiruna's new city hall is a democratic building, open to everybody. Inside the building, the democratic process is supported by the interplay between offices, situated in the “ring”, and public functions, situated at the heart of the building.

The public functions in the heart of the building serve to generate life across the volume. The round shape emphasises the democracy of the building, while at the same time accentuating the building in the new cityscape, planned as a square grid. Thus, the round shape makes the city hall stand out as a landmark in the new Kiruna City and creates a new public plaza around the building.

The city hall consists of an inner and an outer building volume. The inner building is shaped like a crystal. The shape is inspired by the enormous concentration of iron ore that is found in the area's underground. The Crystal is the place of the citizens, but it is also a landmark for Kiruna, which will stand out clearly even from afar due to its reflective surface.

The outer building floats like a ring around The Crystal, protecting it against the rough weather conditions of the region. This building comprises offices for the staff of the municipality's different departments.

All offices are placed in the “ring” to give them an equal position in the building. Symbolically speaking, power is thus distributed equally, just as this positioning ensures a high degree of flexibility as it makes it easy to enlarge or reduce the size of the various spaces according to changed future needs. The ring symbolises democracy, community and solidarity.

Our work with architecture is always based on the specific context. Common to all our projects is a particular focus on social, community-creating spaces and an emphasis on creating good public spaces around our buildings. In Kiruna, it is simply too cold to stay outside, so we needed to rethink the idea of public space and reverse it – meaning that all public functions are located in the heart of the building, creating an indoor urban space which will serve as the city’s natural gathering point.

Furthermore, it has been important for us to get the best out of the rough weather and wind conditions. The round shape of the new city hall creates a better microclimate both on the inside and outside. The shape allows 17 % more daylight to pour into the volume. The building's shape forces the wind to move around the volume, ensuring that snow will not settle up against the building.







Words: Sharman Tanny