Heritagisation of built environments : a study of the urban transformation in Kiruna, Sweden

Abstract: This licentiate thesis is part of a larger case study that examines the built cultural heritage in Kiruna’s urban transformation. The research study presupposes it is necessary to address cultural significance of the built environment in urban planning practice. In Sweden, a conservation planning strategy emerged during the 1980s, in response to the extensive urban renewals that took place in many towns over the decades before. In spite of this, there are many examples of how demands for urban renewal challenge urban conservation.The aim of the thesis is to explore how the concept of built cultural heritage is understood in contemporary urban planning and how urban planning practice affects the built cultural heritage. The main research question is: how are buildings and built environments transformed into cultural heritage?The analysis draws on concepts such as ‘heritagisation’, ‘heritage’ and ‘authorised heritage discourse’. Heritagisation is defined as a process in which something, such as a built environment, turns into heritage. Heritage is perceived as a social and cultural construction in which values and meanings are attributed to, for instance, built environments. There is a distinction between official heritage that is authorised by legislation and unofficial heritage, which is not formally recognised. The authorised heritage discourse is characterised as a hegemonic heritage discourse favouring the monumental and aesthetically appealing, being a concern for heritage specialists.The research is performed as a qualitative, interpretative intrinsic case study of Kiruna’s contemporary urban transformation. The case study is triangulated using multiple methods and a variety of data. The main methods used are text analysis of records, planning documents and media coverage as well as semistructured interviews and observations.Kiruna was established in 1900, with the mining company LKAB as the main stakeholder, in order to provide housing for the large number of workers required in the iron ore industry. The hopes were very high for the design of the new town and some of Sweden’s most famous architects, planners and artists at the time were hired. From the 1980s until 2005, the town’s built environments were recognised as built cultural heritage. Local, regional and national authorities collaborated in protecting designated buildings. In 2004, it became publicly known that subsidence caused by mining activities would affect the settlement; the town would, therefore, be relocated. This has caused controversies around the management of the built cultural heritage in the urban transformation processes. The case of Kiruna illustrates the impact of legislation in defining built cultural heritage and the influence of the authorised heritage discourse on urban planning practice. There are, however, difficulties in implementing the notion of cultural heritage as socially and culturally constructed into urban planning processes; rather, the heritage is perceived as a fixed entity. It is suggested that also unofficial heritage should be recognised in the urban planning processes, in order to manage the long-term urban transformation process.