Saudi Arabia unveils The Line, a carbon-neutral ‘city of the future’

Saudi Arabia has presented the first designs for what the country’s 200m-wide ‘linear city of the future’, known as The Line, will look like.

A year and a half after the initial announcement of Saudi Arabia’s plans to build a linear megacity in the heart of the desert, the country’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has revealed the first artist impressions of how The Line might look.

The impactful images show a city made from two single parallel structures stretching over 170km (105 miles) and connecting the country’s west and east coast. Each of the two skyscrapers will be 500m (1,640 feet) tall – higher than the Empire State Building – and the whole complex will only be 200m (656 feet) wide. 

The vertical design of The Line means that the city is expected to accommodate nine million people, while only using an area of 13 square miles (34sq/km).  

“The designs revealed today for the city’s vertically layered communities will challenge the traditional flat, horizontal cities and create a model for nature preservation and enhanced human livability,” Salman said. “The Line will tackle the challenges facing humanity in urban life today and will shine a light on alternative ways to live.”

Rendering of the design for The Line city

Rendering of The Line city in Saudi Arabia /Neom

Image credit: NEOM

As part of Saudi Arabia’s reported commitment to steer away from the country’s dependence on oil, The Line will be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy and feature “a year-round temperate micro-climate with natural ventilation”, according to a promotional video.

Its residents will not be able to have cars, as there will be no roads to drive them on. The Line’s architects have said that they won’t need them, as all supermarkets and essential services will be “a five-minute walk” away, either up, down or across the city. 

The Line will also have an underground high-speed velocity train that will allow citizens to go from one end of the city to the other in under 20 minutes, according to the designers. 

Inside of The Line city concept

Inside of The Line city concept / Neom

Image credit: NEOM

Although there have been no details regarding the environmental impact of the construction of the city, the project’s leaders have said that they are planning to use digital designs and industrial-scale construction to speed up the building of the city, while an outer mirror facade is meant for the construction to blend into its environment.

In a series of 2021 documents obtained by The Washington Post, concept designs for the city include features such as integrated vertical farming, a marina for yachts and a sports stadium built up to 305m (1,000 feet) above ground.

The designers said the structure will maintain an ideal climate year-round, thanks to its mix of shade, sunlight and ventilation.

The Line city design

Rendering of The Line city / Neom

Image credit: NEOM

The Line is part of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Neom project, which aims to build an independent, liberal, high-tech megacity in the country. The project is also expected to harness solar and wind energy, as well as being home to the world’s largest green hydrogen plant.

The estimated $1tn (£830bn) project also includes a manufacturing and innovation city, called Oxagon, and the first outdoor skiing destination in the Arabian Gulf, which will be housed at Trojena, a tourist destination.

The Crown Prince presented the project as “a civilisational revolution that puts humans first, providing an unprecedented urban living experience while preserving the surrounding nature”. 

He added: “We cannot ignore the livability and environmental crises facing our world’s cities and Neom is at the forefront of delivering new and imaginative solutions to address these issues”. 

Designs of The Line city

Design of The Line city / Neom

Image credit: NEOM

Despite the fantastical images of flying cars and walls covered in greenery presented by the Saudi authorities, not all experts are convinced about the feasibility of the project’s goals. 

“The feasibility of Neom as a whole is still unclear given the unprecedented scale and cost of the project,” said Torbjorn Soltvedt, an analyst at the risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft.

Carlos Felipe Pardo, a senior adviser to the New Urban Mobility Alliance, raised his concerns to NPR about the idea of building new cities from scratch, rather than attempting to solve the problems in the current ones. 

“This solution is a little bit like wanting to live on Mars because things on Earth are very messy,” he said. 

Neom is owned by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund and is part of Saudi Vision 2030, a plan that seeks to diversify the country’s economy and reduce its dependence on oil.

Construction of The Line has already begun and Saudi projections call for 1.5 million people to live in The Line by 2030. However, according to the documents obtained, The Washington Post has estimated that the whole Neom project will be built in phases, stretching from 2030 until 2050. 

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