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The perfect city 2.0

Research project The city of Kiruna was founded by the LKAB Company 100 years ago and its first managing director, Hjalmar Lundbohm had a vision of building not only a physical city but also a socially stable community - “mönsterstaden” - the perfect city. The continued expansion of the mine has led to the risk of major ground collapse and it is now necessary to move Kiruna in order to secure both the safety of the city and the continuance of iron ore mining.

The aims of this project are: i) To scrutinise the power processes at play when carrying out what could be called a full-scale social science experiment – the reconstruction of Kiruna – and to examine how these processes may facilitate or constrain a more sustainable urban development; ii) To create space for articulating visions of the sustainable city that will have a broader applicability.

Project overview

Project period

2012-01-01 2014-12-31

Research subject

Gender studies, History, Human geography, Political science

Head of project

Staff photo Malin Rönnblom Malin Rönnblom Senior lecturer (associate professor)

Project description

The city of Kiruna was founded by the LKAB Company 100 years ago and its first managing director, Hjalmar Lundbohm had a vision of building not only a physical city but also a socially stable community - “mönsterstaden” - the perfect city. Today, Kiruna is constructed around a classic industrial source of production – the prosperous mine. The continued expansion of the mine has led to the risk of major ground collapse and it is now necessary to move Kiruna in order to secure both the safety of the city and the continuance of iron ore mining. All Kiruna’s citizens will be affected by the city’s relocation. Schools, shops, churches, day-care centres, homes for elderly and other workplaces will be moved and rebuilt. This also includes changes for the indigenous people in Sweden, the Sami, that always have been present in this area, but that have been highly marginalised by the city’s expansion on land used for reindeer herding.

Thus, Kiruna is being forced to move by the very mine that was its raison d’être. This somewhat dramatic occurrence, nevertheless, opens up unique opportunities for developing a “sustainable city”. The question here is whether this potential can be realized. Kiruna will not be starting from a tabula rasa; the existing economic, ecological, political and cultural relations will not be erased by the move. However, will they be sufficiently disrupted to allow a new, more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable city to emerge like a phoenix from the ashes? The existing conflicts deriving from gender, age, class, ethnicity/race and sexuality will not disappear, but will they play out in different ways? Will the dominant gendered, racialized and sexualized power relations in society be disrupted? Which actors and interests will be placed in the forefront and which actors and interests risk not being heard at all? Furthermore, Kiruna does not exist in a vacuum. This means, on the one hand, that regional, national and global intentions and practices around sustainability – and around the understandings of what sustainability is supposed to be – will also have an impact on the opportunities and constraints in the reconstruction process. On the other hand, it also means that valuable lessons may be learnt that can have a wider applicability in the efforts to achieve urban sustainability.

The aims of this project are:
i) To scrutinise the power processes at play when carrying out what could be called a full-scale social science experiment – the reconstruction of Kiruna – and to examine how these processes may facilitate or constrain a more sustainable urban development;
ii) To create space for articulating visions of the sustainable city that will have a broader applicability.