Kiruna Cage Balconies – Kiruna, Sweden - Atlas Obscura
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Kiruna, Sweden

Kiruna Cage Balconies

These coffin-like Brutalist balconies were inspired by a nearby mine. 

Unusual balconies dangle off a group of colorful buildings in Northern Sweden. Their strange design pays tribute not just to the local industry, but to a popular architectural trend. 

Swedish architect Hans Asplund first used the term “Brutalism” to describe a modernist architectural movement of the 20th century. The style is characterized by putting function over form and not hiding a structure’s raw construction materials (the material most used was reinforced concrete). Surprisingly, Asplund actually coined the expression in a humorous comment about a newly constructed villa, but the term was picked up by colleagues from England and the word spread.

The Ortdrivaren neighborhood in the city of Kiruna in northern Sweden is an example of what Asplund called “New Brutalism.” Inspired by the nearby iron ore mine, the balconies on one of the buildings are designed to resemble mining shaft cages. The raw concrete and the rugged design are unmistakable signs of Brutalist architecture.

The Brutalist trademark of putting function over form does not seem to have worked in this case though. The balconies’ small size makes them impractical for the residents to use, and water has penetrated the concrete and caused the steel reinforcements to rust.

Know Before You Go

The balconies in the Ortdrivaren can be found in downtown Kiruna, just a few minutes' walk from the main square.

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