Dark Metal

Dark metal: When the lights go down in Kiruna – survey article in Topos  no. 102 (International Review of Landscape Architecture)

The article is the result of a research tour together with Dr. Mark Kammerbauer to the mining town of Kiruna, 140 km north of Sweden’s polar circle. The town is known for the mining of iron ore. Every day a quantity is mined that was enough to build six Eiffel Towers. Since 2012, mining has been carried out underground to a depth of almost 1,400 m. On about 400 km of underground roads the miners are brought to work in buses; there is WLAN in every gallery. Two thirds of the city’s population works in the mine; the inhabitants also call it “mother”.


Daily after midnight there is blasting. A 20 ton elevator brings 40 tons of ore to the surface per trip. The raw material arrives at the port in Narvik (Norway) in long freight trains and is shipped off. About 95% of the European metal products are produced with iron ore from Kiruna.

For some years now, mining has increasingly been undermining the city. The center of Kiruna in particular is located on a growing deformation zone and is to “move” on the basis of a master plan. A new town hall is being built on a greenfield site about 3 km from the city on safe ground. Some of the valuable buildings will be dismantled and rebuilt in the new center. Another part will be destroyed, e.g. the listed town hall by the architect Artur von Schmalensee and the residential ensemble Ortdrivaren by Ralph Erskine (picture above this paragraph). Kiruna is thus undergoing one of the greatest urban transformations in Europe.

The photo documentation about Ortdrivaren was made available to the archive of the Center for Architecture and Design in Stockholm, Ark Des (all photos: Joachim Schultz-Granberg)