Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is confident that the skeptics of The Line megacity which is being built as part of the Neom development in Saudi Arabia, will be proven wrong. In a recently released Discovery Channel documentary named The Line: Saudi Arabia’s City of the Future in Neom, the Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia who is colloquially known by his initials MBS gave details about the trillion-dollar project and dismissed all the skepticism surrounding the megaproject. Originally announced in January 2021, The Line is the largest of 10 regions being developed as part of the extremely ambitious desert city Neom project in Saudi Arabia. “The Line is a project that is a civilizational revolution that puts humans first,” he said at the time.
Despite all the questions raised by industry experts, drone footage released in October 2022 showed the work on the project has already started. “They say a lot of projects in Saudi Arabia can’t be done, they’re too ambitious,” Mohammed bin Salman said in the documentary. “They can keep saying that and we can keep proving them wrong.” Bankrolled by the country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), the megaproject is being built in the northwest of the country in an area described by MBS as “untouched.”
“We think about what kind of opportunity we have,” said the crown prince. “So we have the cash, we have the land, we have the stability, we have good infrastructure, we are G20 country.” He defended the grand project saying that it was absolutely necessary for the country as it will run out of cities to accommodate its growing population by the end of this decade. The population is going to jump in Saudi Arabia from today 33 million, in 2030 something between 50 to 55 million,” MBS said. “In 2030, we will reach the full capacity of Saudi Arabia’s current infrastructure. That raises a very important question – that we need to create a new city.”
In the documentary, Mohammed bin Salman also explains why the decision was made to start “from scratch” to design the futuristic city, which will be free of cars, streets, and carbon emissions. A design competition was conducted for ideas. While most participants suggested traditional radial cities, one proposal gave the idea of a linear city. “We brainstormed, we work with a team and we did a competition with the best designers on the whole planet,” he explained. “All of them provide us with cities based on existing methods, but with better solutions. Except one, he takes that idea and says let’s turn it from a circle to a line.”
The original proposal by the US studio Morphosis suggested a city designed in the shape of a strip that would be around two kilometers (roughly 1.25 miles) wide. However, MBS claims that he personally suggested narrowing the strip and extending upwards into two parallel, linear skyscrapers. The final design includes two skyscrapers that will stand taller than the Empire State Building and will run parallel to each other across 75 miles of desert, coastal, and mountain landscapes. “Neom will compete with Miami in terms of entertainment, culture, sports and retail,” the Saudi Crown Prince said. “It’s empty [and] has a mix of topography, from mountains to islands, beaches, dunes, to oases, corals, skiing to diving.”
“Saudi Arabia wants to create a new civilisation for tomorrow. We encourage other countries to do the same for a better planet. It’s going to be something new and creative,” MBS added. While engineers believe the megacity could take up to 50 years to construct because of its sheer size and complexity, the Saudi Prime Minister claims he wants The Line to be completed by the end of the decade. He said he wanted his country to house a construction project as iconic and timeless as the Pyramids of Egypt. However, urban design experts are not convinced by the feasibility of MBS’s utopian concept.
“There would be so many physical and environmental phenomena that would have to be dealt with to achieve the incredible minimal and singular character that the renderings propose,” said Marshall Brown, director of the Princeton Urban Imagination Center and an associate professor of architecture at Princeton University, as per a report by Dezeen. It will be interesting to see if Saudi Arabia is able to pull off this gargantuan project, not only fulfilling Mohammed bin Salman but proving the skeptics wrong.