A few days ago, renderings of an ambitious new project in Saudi Arabia went viral on various social platforms. This is not a utopian project thought up by some university students about Superstudio’s collages but an official Saudi government publication announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It is a project for a 170-kilometer-long skyscraper capable of accommodating nine million people, entirely clad on the outside with a mirrored surface. 500 meters high and 200 meters wide, the linear city is named The Line and will be built near the Red Sea as part of the Neom project – which currently includes Oxagon, a reimagined manufacturing city, and Trojena, a mountain tourist destination.
The new urban development concept will connect the Red Sea coast to the mountains and upper valleys of north-western Saudi Arabia. The compact structure will, if built, be an essential social and economic experiment. The city aims to be carbon neutral through the elimination of carbon-intensive infrastructures such as cars and roads and will run on 100 percent renewable energy, including the activities of its industries.
Externally, The Line will be clad with a mirrored façade, giving it, in the words of the designers, a “more subtle insertion into the natural landscape”. Urban life will thus be completely exposed to the interior of the volume, built to accommodate buildings, layers of public parks, pedestrian areas, schools, housing, and workplaces. On a planned footprint of only 34 square kilometers, functional units for residential, commercial, and recreational areas are arranged according to the five-minute city principle so that residents can access all necessary services on foot. In addition, a high-speed railway will run through the megastructure to ensure transit from one end to the other in just 20 minutes. The concept is described by its creators as “Zero Gravity Urbanism”.