• A New City Hall at the Edge of Civilization

    During the second half of December, the sun does not rise on the 18,000 residents of Sweden’s northernmost town, Kiruna. Here, 145 km north of the Arctic Circle, a new city hall just opened.

  • Kiruna exists in relative isolation – The closest neighboring town, Gällivare, is 75 miles away. Darkness defines the winter months, and snow blankets the landscape for the better half of the year. The town marks Sweden’s Arctic frontier, the last concentration of civilization bordering some of Europe’s largest expanses of undeveloped wilderness.

    Opened on 22 November 2018 as the first major landmark of the relocated Kiruna, the town hall establishes an inviting gathering point for the town, standing as an enduring architectural illustration of Kiruna’s heritage.

    The Crystal

    Kiruna’s new town hall is a tribute to the town’s history and a framework for emerging communities. Named Kristallen, or “The Crystal,” the building draws physical inspiration from the angular geometry of iron minerals.

    Distinct inner and outer building volumes support the building’s dual roles of community and civic benefit.

    An inner core of these angular metallic volumes makes space for community functions: Public exhibition rooms, workshops, and social common spaces ensure the building’s vital function as a community hub. This central crystal allows the town hall to serve Kiruna beyond civic logistics and local governance – It is a space for old friends and longtime neighbors to meet within the new city center, supporting a sense of social unity during the transitory period of Kiruna’s relocation.

    The outer volume covers the inner metallic crystal with a sleek circular glass and natural stone façade. Housing staff offices for various municipality departments, this section houses the town hall’s civic function but also contributes to the building’s functional design. The circular exterior forces wind to move around the building, ensuring that the winter’s heavy snowdrifts will not settle against the façade. The circular form symbolizes unity and solidarity: Centrally located in the heart of new Kiruna, the building encourages equal access to all citizens.

    In the subarctic sunlight, The Crystal’s radiant white exterior establishes it as a visible landmark for a resilient community.

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