A Golden, Egg-Shaped Sauna Signifies the Rebirth of a Swedish Mining Town

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By Jenny Xie / Published by Dwell
Artist duo Mats Bigert and Lars Bergström build a public art installation to commemorate the relocation of an entire city in Northern Sweden.

Sweden’s northernmost city, Kiruna, is only home to 18,000 people, but it’s been making international news thanks to a bold move—literally. Founded in 1900, Kiruna sits above a giant iron ore mine owned by the state-run mining company Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag (LKAB), but over a century of industry has endangered the very ground the city stands on. In 2004, city officials resolved to shift the entire city about two miles east, and the first phase has already begun.

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To commemorate the move, Swedish housing cooperative Riksbyggen enlisted internationally acclaimed artists Mats Bigert and Lars Bergström to create a public art installation. Solar Egg, now open to the public, is an egg-shaped sauna constructed out of 69 polygons of gold-plated stainless steel. It represents rebirth as the city of Kiruna seeks a new beginning, and draws inspiration from the region’s Arctic climate.

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The installation can be disassembled and relocated, echoing the urban transformation of Kiruna itself. Inside, a heart-shaped wood-fired burner heats the sauna. In a statement released by Bigert and Bergström, the artists explain, "Saunas are places that fascinate. When Riksbyggen asked us to interpret Kiruna, we felt it was natural to explore a space that unites and encourages conversation. Saunas are sacrosanct places where you can discuss all manner of things—from the big to the small."

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Visitors to Kiruna can book the sauna online. At the end of the year, Solar Egg will make an international stop at the Swedish Institute in Paris as part of a government initiative to promote Swedish design and architecture abroad.

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