Anyone who lives in a big city is perfectly aware of the daily critical issues they have to face when going to work, having an aperitif downtown with friends or spending time at the mall. Hours spent in trafficendless rounds to look for parking and hordes of people at major sights are the order of the day. If we add that, in some of these cities, the use of public transport has the effect of lengthening travel times even more, the situation becomes even more complicated.
Even the small towns and villages do not enjoy only merits. Life is undoubtedly more peaceful and frenzy gives way to greater serenity and general well-being. But the lack of stress is echoed by the difficulties, in most cases, in reaching the basic services such as schools, hospitals, post offices, banks, supermarkets, etc… Even the distance from other inhabited centres, which can sometimes be a real isolation, in case of need turns out to be a significant problem.
In short, the perfect city does not exist. At least until today, because the civil revolution seems to be around the corner. This is The Line, the new smart city frontier announced at the beginning of last year by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. A futuristic project that has no precedent in human history, and which is absolutely worth investigating in detail.
The assumptions behind The Line
Before going into the technical details of this futuristic city, it is good to analyze the context on a larger scale. The Line, in fact, is “only” a part of a larger urban agglomeration called Neom, which is expected to arise in the northwestern portion of Saudi Arabia. This ambitious project dates back to 2017, the year in which Mohammad bin Salman publicly announced it. Given the complexity of the project (which, according to some forecasts, will cost over 500 billion euros!), in 2019 the Saudi sovereign wealth fund PIF (Public Investment Fund) ends up at the head of the newborn listed company Neom. The name of the company, identical to that of the city, immediately makes it clear what its purpose will be: the management and development of the megacity project.
But what is the philosophy behind such an idea? The city of Neom, as it is already clear, will be a so-called “foundation city”, i.e. an urban agglomeration born at the table, with very specific political-urban planning wills. What may seem (and in some ways could be) a manifestation of pomp and power, actually has a concrete goal. The birth and development of Neom is in fact one of the cardinal points of the Saudi national strategic framework that takes its name Saudi Vision 2030.
This plan is aimed at reducing Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversifying its economy and developing public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism. Including strengthening economic and investment activities, increasing non-oil trade between states, and promoting a softer and more country greens. On the other hand, there is also an increase in public spending on the military and the production of equipment and ammunition.
What are the constituent parts of Neom?
As mentioned earlier, The Line is part of the larger Neom project. This suggests, rightly, that there will be other parts which, together with The Line, will contribute to the development of the large urban agglomeration described above. Well, let’s find out briefly what these parts are today:
- Oxagon–Neom Industrial City – this part of Neom, which can be abbreviated to NIC, will be built about 25 km north of the city of Duba, a small city in western Saudi Arabia on the northern coast of the Red Sea. This urban center will occupy about 40 km2 and that will be it used for modern production and industrial research and will be connected to the expansion of the port of Duba. Presented in November 2021, the name Oxagon derives from the shape of the floating industrial complex, a regular octagon. Once completed it will be the largest in the world and will also function as a port for shipping routes across the Red Sea. The Saudi Crown Prince has described the project as a radically new model, progenitor of a new era of civilization and economic development.
- Trojan – little is known about this part of Neom, given that the presentation is much more recent (March of this year). What is certain is that it is the part of the urban agglomeration dedicated to the practice of outdoor skiing in the Arabian peninsula. To make this possible, Trojena will be located in the highest mountain range of Saudi Arabia, approximately 50 km from the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba, with altitudes between 1500 and 2600 m. Compared to the rest of the territory where Neom will be built, the site is characterized by a milder climate and cooler temperatures. Fundamental characteristics to be able to guarantee skiing activity, so much so that the 9th edition of the Asian Winter Games is expected to be held in the Trojena area in 2029.
The salient features of The Line
The particularities of The Line are evident already analyzing its dimensions. Unlike the usual urban agglomerations, which present a predominantly compact and multifaceted development, the future Saudi city will actually develop in only one direction. The Line will in fact be 170 km long, 200 meters wide and 500 meters high; will be superficially 33 times greater than the city of New Yorkcurrently the largest in the world.
Another quite visible prerogative is the external layout of the city, with the side parts surrounded by glass wallsable to mirror the surrounding boundless desert environment making The Line appear as a sort of luxuriant and almost visionary “oasis”.. These mirrored walls also have the function of isolating the inhabited environment from the torrid external environmental conditions. That might be enough, but it’s not!
They will be able to live inside the city up to 9 million peoplewhich will find accommodation in lush neighborhoods surrounded by water features and nature, typical of some science fiction films set in future or parallel worlds. The Line will have no roads, having been designed with a modular housing sub-nucleus structure that would allow the inhabitants to have essential services at a maximum distance of 5 minutes from home. To move, therefore, you will not need cars but there will be only one high-speed train that will connect the two extreme poles of the city in 20 minutes with numerous daily trips.
It is expected that by 2023 about one and a half million people will be able to live in The Line, although more than 50 years will be expected to complete this huge project. They would find location in the city Enowathe clean energy, water and hydrogen company, and the Neom Tech & Digital Companya center with the aim of developing smart cognitive technologies.
Work on the construction of The Line has begun
From the (beautiful) words of recent years, we have recently finally moved on to deeds. In fact, work on the creation of The Line officially began a few weeks ago, thus translating into reality the futuristic projects designed so far only on paper. The proof of this lies in the video recently released by the well-known specialist architecture and design magazine Dezeen, where some drones register a fervent activity in the desert areas of Saudi Arabia.
In the video, which lasts about a minute, many earth moving machines are visible (such as excavators, dumpers, bulldozers and so on) intent on excavating a huge construction site area in the middle of the desert. According to the Saudi company in charge of aerial photography Oz Sky, these images would refer to the futuristic city of the Line. For the more skeptical, therefore, proof of the actual veracity of the existence of this incredible and revolutionary city.
Another image, taken by OT Sky Drone, shows the mainly longitudinal development of the city comparing it to the final result of the same.
Structural civil engineer, graduated in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the La Sapienza University of Rome, professionally engaged as an inspector of bridges and viaducts and structural designer. Strongly fond of bridges and viaducts and in general of the whole sphere concerning the world of infrastructural engineering. A true “hunter” of works of art as well as an observer of infrastructural development around Italy and the world. Convinced supporter of the preservation and recovery of the existing historical heritage, a source of inestimable value and unique and unrepeatable works of art.
The Line: the 170 km long city, 33 times the size of New York | BuildingCuE