Meet The Line, Saudi Arabia’s Future 106-Mile, One-Building City

The potential folly of the futuristic city Crown Prince Mohammed envisions along the Red Sea isn’t in the financials, it’s in the country’s underlying reality.

By Laurie L. DoveHow Stuff Works

Saudi Arabia is home to some of the world’s most interesting and ambitious architecture, but the country’s newest urban project may just top them all.

The government of Saudi Arabia unveiled plans in 2021 for the city of Neom, including a megastructure called The Line, a massive scheme still years from completion. The Line is designed to be an entire city composed of two parallel, 656-foot-wide (200-meter-wide) skyscrapers, each 106 miles (170 kilometres) long and 1,640 feet (500 meters) high (higher than most of the world’s tallest skyscrapers), stretching across the northwest part of Saudi Arabia near the Red Sea.

If you think this sounds like the setting for a futuristic, dystopian novel, you’re not wrong. The Line is being described as a one-building vertical city outfitted with exterior mirrors, big enough to house 9 million people — along with everything they need, from parks and waterfalls to flying taxis and robot maids. There are even plans to include an artificial moon for residents to gaze upon.

With its proposed width of only 656 feet, The Line will rely primarily on its height to encompass its residents and a host of modern trappings, such as a high-speed rail to connect sections of the 106-mile city. Saudi Arabian officials claim The Line will be otherwise devoid of roads, cars or emissions and will be powered strictly by clean energy (although details have not been released). Here are a few of most notable proposed features of The Line:

  • vertically layered homes, offices, public parks and public schools.
  • year-round climate control of all indoor and outdoor spaces.
  • high-speed rail that will transport residents from end-to-end in 20 minutes.
  • a five-minute walk to all amenities.
  • accessibility to parks and natural elements within a two-minute walk.
The Line is being constructed as part of the Neom project in the Tabuk Province of northwestern Saudi Arabia, north of the Red Sea and beside the Gulf of Aqaba. Peter Hermes Furian/Shutterstock
The Line is being constructed as part of the Neom project in the Tabuk Province of northwestern Saudi Arabia, north of the Red Sea and beside the Gulf of Aqaba. Peter Hermes Furian/Shutterstock

When complete, The Line will span 13 square miles (34 square kilometres) across the desert to become a literal oasis, according to the press release. Architectural renderings show one building with two distinct sides that incorporates a verdant space in the middle filled with water features and plants. The plans were designed by American company Morphosis.

Although a timeline was not part of The Line’s announcement, initial earthwork began in October 2021, and it is expected that residents will begin moving in by the year 2030. This deadline was shared as part of a larger countrywide improvement plan dubbed Vision 2030 that is intended to draw 100 million annual visitors and keep Saudi Arabia in the running against travel hot spots like its Gulf neighbours of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The Line is just one part of the $500 billion Neom Project, an initiative announced in 2017, nested in the Vision 2030 plan and focused on the Northwest part of Saudi Arabia.

Along with The Line, there are plans to build a network of airports as well as the world’s largest green energy plant. The area is intended to become so self-sufficient that it is being referred to as a “country within a country” where residents will be called “Neomians” rather than “Saudis.”

“NEOM will be a place for all people from across the globe to make their mark on the world in creative and innovative ways. NEOM remains one of the most important projects of Saudi Vision 2030, and our commitment to delivering The Line on behalf of the nation remains resolute,” claimed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in the July 25, 2022 press release.

Now That’s Interesting

Although The Line is a futuristic and ambitious project, critics of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative say the attempt to transition from a crude oil economy to one powered by tourism overlooks the country’s most available resources, namely its competitive advantages in higher education and research.

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