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New City Centre: Inviting more-than-human stakeholders (sample case)

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Moving the heart of the City in Kiruna, Sweden: How can the new town square incorporate more-than-human perspectives?

Introduction to Case Studies

At 'Case-Studies' you will find one of the outlines of the workshops we conducted throughout the fall and winter of 2017, including details about the case used and the specific design challenge proposed. The cases were built around archetypes of regeneration challenges. You will find an example of storytelling that might serve as a source of inspiration. Based on our experience, the sample workshop structure include a list of methods used (excluding the opening and closing in plenary). We hope they can be helpful for both novice and experienced facilitators when designing an event.

Workshop Outlines

The cases include workshop outlines developed for a 1.5-2 hours workshop. In all workshops, participants were divided into small subgroups of 5-8 people per table, which allows participants to move through the exercises quickly and can help foster a trusting atmosphere.


In the various workshops, we experimented with different ways of facilitating. For example, at the Transformations 2017 Conference, with a total of roughly 40 participants, we assigned one master facilitator and one table facilitator for each small group. The master facilitator welcomed all participants, led a short warm-up, gave an overview of objectives and theoretical inputs, and then led the final closing of the event. The table facilitators guided their group throughout the workshop, working with different case studies and different methods. During such a high-paced workshop, it was useful to have the master facilitator keeping time and keeping each table on track. In Aveiro we used an in-between structure, wherein each group had a table host that supported participants by handing out materials, answering questions, and generally setting the tone. The master facilitator took the main role of guiding the process, supported by a timekeeper and assistant.

The Cases

The stories we crafted for each case were based on the principles of storytelling. For each case, certain imaginative aspects were deliberately highlighted. For example, in the case of the abandoned farmstead, natural elements and beings were given a central role in the story, in line with a shift to a more-than-human perspective. In the other variation of the abandoned farmstead case, the story highlighted the spiritual and religious history of the region to evoke a more enchanted perspective on the future of the farm. In the case of the new city centre and the dismissed military area, the idea of expanded time was combined with a more-than-human perspective.

Case 4. New City Centre 

Workshops conducted with this case

Transformations 2017 Conference, Dundee, UK

Case summary (old story)

Due to the expansion of the world’s largest modern iron ore mine, the Swedish city of Kiruna, Northern Lapland, is being forced to move large parts of the city, including its town centre. The city is literally being “undermined”, and at the same time, the mine is proving substantial funding for the move. While there is some trepidation about the affordability of new developments, it is also considered an opportunity for a fresh start. The lead architect of the project has said that: “Our biggest challenge is not the design of the new city… The biggest challenge is to move the minds of the people and the culture”. 

Design Dilemma 

How can the new town centre become a transformative space? More specifically, how can it become a space that generates new stories and mindsets aligned with and supporting just regenerative society. The resulting ideas can be abstract, process focused, or specific design concepts. 

Story of Kiruna (new story) 

The City of Kiruna prepares to move its heart... Once upon a time, about 6,000 years ago, human beings began to settle in the far Northern bio-region of Lapland. Since then, 240 generations of people have lived, loved, and survived there. The northern lights have danced overhead, the rivers have flowed, and other inhabitants such as bears, wolves, foxes, birds, and forests have participated in the creation of a complex and interconnected web of life, in which the local people participated and thrived. Recently, however, in 1900 a city called Kiruna was founded by people from the south - people who were not used to this environment. The settlement was built to support a mine intended to extract the iron ore that had been created during a time when Kiruna was deep under an ocean. The mine was operated by humans acclimated to a very different bioregion and culture and as the deputy Mayor of Kiruna once said, “We are symbiotic: the town is here because of the mine, otherwise no devil would have built a city here”. 

After a haphazard start to the city, involving poor housing and conflicts between mine workers and owners, in 1953 the city centre was completely renovated and most of the original buildings were demolished and replaced. Now, however, the city has evolved and is not only famous for having the largest modern mine in the world, but also for being a tourism hub. People from all over the world come to Kiruna to explore the surrounding wild areas for hiking, camping, birdwatching, and rafting, and to see the indigenous Sami people that still occupy the region. The livelihoods of Kiruna’s residents have also diversified. Kiruna now hosts a Geophysical Observatory and Space Center, and local universities have developed related tech programs, training future scientists and technologists. 

So, the future looked rosy for Kiruna. But, that would hardly be an interesting story if we left it there. Geologists have realized that as the mine inevitably expands, large parts of the city are at risk of falling into the mine… The very system that created Kiruna, has begun to literally undermine it. Therefore a heroic plan was hatched to move the city, including the city centre! The highly profitable mine is supporting the move financially, and city officials mostly hail this as an opportunity for renewal and tout their commitment to sustainability. Some people, however, worry that important places that relate to their personal memories will be lost, and that the talk of sustainability is just a green wash for branding. This is where we leave the story - in the middle… The process of moving the city has just begun, and will continue for the next 100 years. 

Below the outline of the workshop based on Theory U. Taken from our toolkit on art-based methods (p.78). Download your copy here! Links to methods below.

Convene: Hand Stencil Mandala, Warm-up Question
Observe: Storytelling, Personifying Emotions
Reflect: Inviting Non-Human Stakeholders, Prose Poem
Act: "Yes, And...", Collage
Harvest: Learning & Commitment

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