Ambitious 170-km-long Saudi skyscraper city gets construction go ahead
The idea of taking a population the size of New York City and putting it into a 170-km (105-mile)-long skyscraper in the Saudi Desert seems so ambitious that anyone could be forgiven for being skeptical. However, the project, named the Line, is indeed going ahead, and UK firm Atkins has been commissioned to help realize it.
To recap what we already know, in addition to its incredible length, the Line is expected to reach a supertall height of 500 m (1,640 ft) and a width of 200 m (656 ft). It will stretch over desert, mountain, valley and coastal terrain, and will have a mirrored exterior, so hopefully some kind of system can be put in place to ensure it doesn't decimate the local avian population. Its interior will include housing, parks, hospitals – basically everything you'd expect to find in a major city.
As if all that wasn't ambitious enough, the plan is for it to run from 100 percent renewable energy, though we've no information yet on what this will entail. Even putting aside the task of building and powering the linear city, just keeping so many people hydrated, fed, and comfortable while getting rid of their waste in a desert location is a challenge in itself. So how will they go about it? Well, according to Reuters, the Line will make use of AI tech to manage such issues and will rely on surveillance of its inhabitants to help it predict user needs.
"[Atkins parent company] SNC-Lavalin has been awarded a five-year contract under a framework agreement for consultancy services on The Line," explained a recent SNC-Lavalin press release. "In collaboration with Neom and other Delivery Partner organizations, SNC-Lavalin will provide project and construction management consultancy services for the design, procurement, construction, testing and commissioning of the project, together with the management of the critical interfaces that the Linear city shares with adjacent Neom projects and logistics. The project has adopted a highly collaborative delivery model in response to its scale, complexity, supply chain and requirements for innovation."
It's early days, but things are already happening on the ground. MIT Review recently reported that the project is under construction in the desert and satellite photos show the build progress and a construction team of thousands living nearby. There are already controversies too. Parts of the development have displaced the local Huwaitat people, who have allegedly faced deportation, arrest, and even death for refusing to leave.
The Line is part of a grand vision called Neom by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is keen to transform his country's oil-based economy into a tourist-based one. The scale of the work going on over there is mind boggling and involves the construction of an airport by Foster + Partners, a huge battery, a BIG-designed tourist hotspot and, most recently, a massive cuboid skyscraper.