Saudi Arabia’s Zero-Carbon, Mirrored Wall City Is Becoming a Reality

The Line

Drone footage released this week shows construction has begun on The Line, Saudi Arabia’s zero-carbon, megacity in the desert. Part of the country’s Neom development, the city will be 170 kilometre long and 500 metre tall, with a mirrored façade.

Plans for Neom have changed course several times in the years since its announcement in 2017, which had led many to doubt whether it would actually go ahead.

Saudi Arabia unveiled its plans for The Line back in August this year. The zero-carbon city is set to open in 2030 and will accommodate nine million residents by 2045.

The car-free city will have a 500-metre high mirror skyscraper wall on either side of it — to compare, the Empire State Building in NYC is 450-metres tall and the Eiffel Tower is 330m. The city will span 170kms of desert, and even have subterranean levels.

The Line
Image: Neom

The concept is part of Saudi Arabia’s mega-project Neom, a $700 billion smart city. So far, it includes two projects: Oxagon, a “reimagined manufacturing and innovation city”, and Trojena, a “global mountain tourism destination that will offer the Arabian Gulf’s first outdoor skiing”.

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“[The Line] will run on 100% renewable energy and prioritise people’s health and well-being over transportation and infrastructure as in traditional cities,” Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wrote in a press release in August.

He added that the new city will be nature ahead of development and built on a mere 34 square kilometres, “unheard of when compared to other cities of similar capacity”.

Image: Neom

“This, in turn, will reduce the infrastructure footprint and create never-before-seen efficiencies in city functions. Its ideal climate all year round will ensure that residents can enjoy the surrounding nature when travelling on foot. Residents will also have access to all facilities in The Line within a five-minute walk, in addition to a high-speed rail with an end-to-end transit of 20 minutes.”

To fit with its 34 square kilometres of space, the city plans to layer its functions, including public parks, pedestrian areas, schools, homes and workplaces, vertically — a concept referred to as ‘Zero Gravity Urbanism’.

The Crown Prince said in the release that the vertically-layered communities would challenge the traditional city model of flat, horizontal designs, opting for nature preservation and enhanced human liveability.

“The Line will tackle the challenges facing humanity in urban life today and will shine a light on alternative ways to live,” the Crown Prince said.

Image: Neom

“We cannot ignore the liveability and environmental crises facing our world’s cities, and Neom is at the forefront of delivering new and imaginative solutions to address these issues. Neom is leading a team of the brightest minds in architecture, engineering and construction to make the idea of building upwards a reality.”

The Crown Prince stating the city will prioritise people’s health and well-being is ironic, considering Saudi Arabia is known for its extreme conservative views. Being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) is punishable by death. Any sex out of marriage is criminalised. And women were only given the right to drive in 2018.

The footage of construction on The Line comes just days after human rights organisation ALQST reported that three men who are believed to have criticised the displacement of locals to make way for the Neom development were sentenced to death.

“These shocking sentences once again show the Saudi authorities’ callous disregard for human rights, and the cruel measures they are prepared to take to punish members of the Huwaitat tribe for legitimately protesting against forced eviction from their homes,” said ALQST’s head of events Abdullah Aljuraywi via Dezeen.

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