King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden recently opened Kiruna’s new town hall, designed by Henning Larsen.
Kiruna is a Swedish town that sits atop the largest iron ore mine on the planet. The town came into being as a result of the mining operations, but the same mine now threatens to erase it as the earth around Kiruna is beginning to destabilize. The mining firm Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara (LKAB) has proposed to move Kiruna three kilometers east.
This relocation of the town and moving residents to a new city center uproots generations of local heritage, interrupting tight-knit neighborhoods and erasing multigenerational family stores. In 2012, LKAB and Kiruna Municipality announced a competition to design a new town hall, the first building in the relocated city center. The competition was won by Henning Larsen, along with firms Temagruppen, WSP and UiWE.
Named “Kristallen,” or “The Crystal,” the winning concept is an architectural salute to Kiruna’s heritage and a public focal point for a reestablished community, according to Henning Larsen Partner and Design Principal Louis Becker. The structure is inspired by the angular geometry of iron minerals that are fundamental to the town’s identity.
“‘The Crystal’ serves both civic and social functions. The outer building volume contains office space for the public departments of Kiruna Municipality, but the core of the building is dedicated social space: Public exhibition halls, workshops and meeting rooms establish a foundational commons for the new city center,” Becker says. “It is a space for longtime friends and neighbors to gather, supporting a sense of social unity during the transitory period of Kiruna’s relocation.”
“The Crystal” gives new life to Kiruna’s existing town hall, which was designed by the Swedish architect Arthur von Schmalensee. The new building integrates the iconic 1958 bell tower and original door handles from the main entrance, which represents a visual reimagining of Kiruna’s identity, and also marks a physical continuation of the town’s history. Henning Larsen has created a circular form embodying the building’s communal focus, which is open and accessible to all.
“Community identity often has real geographic roots,” says 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.”
Click on the slideshow for a sneak peek at the Town Hall.