Saudi Arabia is known for medieval barbarism and oil, but the country is rebranding itself as a futuristic ecotopia.
As part of the NEOM project, the Saudi government has released visualizations of a 170-kilometer-long skyscraper. The Line is a reimagined urban development announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that connects the Red Sea coast to the mountains and upper valleys of northwest Saudi Arabia.
The 200-meter-wide compact structure represents a social and economic experiment. The city aims to be zero-carbon by eliminating carbon-intensive infrastructures such as cars and roads and will run on 100 percent renewable energy, including the operations of its industries.
The images show two parallel wall-like structures enclosing a space between them. The Line will be clad in a mirror façade on the outside, giving it a distinct character and, according to its designers, a more subtle integration into the natural landscape. The interior will be constructed to house buildings, layers of public parks, pedestrian areas, schools, homes, and workplaces. The creators refer to the concept as “Zero Gravity Urbanism.” This structure, rising 500 meters above sea level, would become the world’s 12th tallest and by far the longest skyscraper.
The Line is designed to accommodate 9 million people on a 34-square-kilometer footprint. Reducing the footprint also reduces the supporting infrastructure. The functional units for residential, retail, and leisure areas are organized according to the five-minute city principle so that residents can walk to all necessary amenities. A high-speed rail will also run the length of the megastructure, ensuring end-to-end transit in 20 minutes.
The Neom project, which includes Oxagon, a reimagined manufacturing city; Trojena, a mountain tourism destination; and Neom’s two main subsidiaries, was first announced last year. These projects are part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, a plan to transition from an oil-based economy to a knowledge-based economy.