Why a Swedish town is on the move – one building at a time
Subsidence from the world’s biggest iron ore mine threatens to swallow up the Arctic town of Kiruna. But what does its relocation mean for the local Sami reindeer herders?
In the far north of Sweden, 125 miles above the Arctic Circle, sits the church of Kiruna, once voted the most beautiful old building in the country. The cosy terracotta-coloured church, with its fairytale rooftop points, is designed to resemble a hut of the indigenous Sami people. It opened in 1912, with almost no religious symbols, and is described by the vicar, Lena Tjärnberg, as “the living room of the community”. But if Kiruna church is to stay the same, it must go.
In 2026, the entire 600-tonne wooden building will be loaded on to trailers and moved to a new spot near the local graveyard. It’s just one large – and technically tricky – piece of a project to move Kiruna to a new home, three kilometres (1.9 miles) east of the old town. Billed as the world’s most radical relocation project, Kiruna is moving because subsidence from the local iron ore mine is threatening to swallow the town. Cracks have already appeared in the hospital; a school is no longer safe for its pupils.