Spaces In-Between in Kiruna City Transformation / Mellanrum i stadsomvandlingens Kiruna

In my research  I  investigate the relation between contemporary art practice and critical spatial practice. I question the democratic processes in city developments, the relation between people and their shared public space. The specific aim of my research is to explore spaces-in-between as a phenomenon and as a part of a more socially sustainable urban development in the ongoing city transformation of Kiruna, one of Sweden’s most dramatic urban developments ever, caused by the expanding mining industry in the mountain Kiirunavaara just below the inhabitated city.

My standpoint is that in present days urban developments’ rigid strive for transformation through densificationand where Kiruna is an example of this,  there is a need of spaces-in-between in the shared public space as open, unplanned free zones which do not control our body movements and behavior in our everday life.  I mean they increase wellbeing and safety in one’s own neighbourhood.  In the spaces-in-between people can meet in inclusive social contexts that not only concerns consumption. It is often said in the development programs produced for urban developments that the natural place for encounters is in a rich shopping area. I claim this indicates a lack of understanding of people’s need to meet in meaningful contexts in daily life where another kind of exchange can take place. 

Informed by the foucauldian concept of heterotopias (Fouacult, 1967:3-4) and by my own and other’s earlier research (my key references are the reseachers Monica Sand, Catharina Gabrielsson, Apolonija Sustersic and Chantal Mouffe et al) on the public space, urban development processes and spaces-in-between, I define these spaces-in-between as areas without specific use or identity, in the middle of city architecture. These almost  forgotten spaces  between buildings may not be activated more than as transit passages, but I claim they fulfill an important function of being potential spaces for a variety of important temporary and daily social activities.

I do not tell what the spaces in-between should be used for, that is something the people living and moving in the city themselves should decide together. Nor do I give examples of activities since those control people in a way urban planners always have done. My purpose is instead to investigate if it is possible to value and use the spaces in-between, through an artistic creative process that incourages people to appropriate the city. 

I insist that spaces-in-between are planned into the urban plan of the New Kiruna and that the existing spaces-in-between  will be preserved in the minor part of the present Kiruna that will not be demolished. The planned spaces-in-between should be integrated parts of the dense city architecture in areas where people live and work, not as detached parks or city spaces with an already determined function outside the city center.  They will be created as memories of the spaces-in-between that no longer exists.

It is important to consider the spaces-in-between as spaces that does not automatically become permanent places just because we identify and occupy them for our temporary, relational activities. Their identity and the resource they constitute is the potential they possess: in a state of rest they are waiting to be taken into use temporarily and become activated places in our presence and interaction and then, after we have left them, return and continue to be spaces of possibilities.

My objectives are, through artistic creative collaborative processes which involve the citizens to participation, to point out the need for spaces-in-between  both  as a guarantee for a more democratic and open ongoing discussion with many voices about what kind of cities we should create, and  as physical spaces in the middle of the city architecture in the shared public space where initiatives for temporary socially inclusive activities are incouraged.

Rapport förstudien Mellanrum i stadsomvandlingens Kiruna 2013 (PDF på svenska, in English soon )

CV Anna Hesselgren -in English- July 2016 PDF