Patience is a virtue in Kiruna. It’s very widely known that the town will have to move over the coming years because of growing subsidence from the mining activities. As you approach Kiruna from the east there’s a big sign by the road showing a woman and a man in hard hats, with the slogan, ‘This is where we are building the New Kiruna’. So far, no sign of any building, but I’ll keep you posted.

I must be fair. There are some new flats being built to help deal with the problem of the blocks of flats soon to be demolished. Some of these are being built by the mine company, and some by the local council. That’s 500 new flats that are really needed, and we’re all hoping they’ll be built in time.

One of the areas where flats are being built is called ‘Terassen’. Here they’re building two tower blocks of flats. Strangely, these are being built on the exact site of two tower blocks of flats that were knocked down five years ago because they’d stood empty for too long. It’s a confusing picture – we’re all trying to keep up.

There has been much razzmatazz over competitions – to design the new Kiruna, and for the design of the new town hall building.

The town hall design that won the competition is ‘Kristallen’. On the architect’s illustration it looks like a spaceship, so was no doubt strongly influenced by Richard Branson’s plans to launch space flights from the town. The illustration shows Kiruna’s residents looking at this building in amazement, as if a UFO just landed. It’s a large round white building with a central rocket sticking out the top (ok, I made that up about the rocket). It would be good if the real thing arrived that way too.

‘Kiruna-4-ever’ is the name of the winning entry for the new town design. It sounds like a club for 13 year-olds, but maybe that’s just my prejudice. I fear we’ll all have to wear ‘I love Kiruna’ badges and sit on pink fluffy sofas to live there. There are sci-fi type cable cars and lots of white buildings which will disappear in the snow. (This could be useful if any of them feel the need to hide.) Anyway, so far so good, there’s some kind of plan.

The local council is very excited by the plan and is telling us it’s ‘all systems go’. So far it’s been a slow start, but I suspect they’ve been in training, carefully deciding on the right approach, knowing that psychology is so important when it comes to getting the public on your side. I think (and it’s just my point of view this) there’s a distinctly ‘Gestalt’ aspect to the way they’re going about things – an awareness of ‘figure’ and ‘background’, if you know what I mean.

If you don’t, let me explain. It’s the idea (in ‘Gestalt’ theory) that when we look at something we see an object – the ‘figure’ – rather than what’s around it – ‘the background’. It’s possible for people to help us see the background instead of the figure by the way it’s presented, and so that must be what Kiruna council are trying to do. To illustrate, here’s a picture of a fancy vase, which might also be two people talking…

So you see, maybe we’re all focussing on the wrong thing. Stupidly, we’ve been looking for some sign of them building the new town, when really we should have been looking at all the lovely space they’ve been busy planning in and around it.

Of course, as shown in the picture above, it isn’t easy to see this negative space (‘background’) if you can’t yet see the buildings (‘the figure’). So I guess we’ll just have to imagine where the buildings will be. That’s where the patience bit comes in.