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The Line: Less Utopian Than Expected?

A large building site in the desert, heavyweight equipment in motion, and personnel at work captured by cinematic drone footage reveals what seems to be The Line's site: a futuristic, mega-building project that will change the common conception of cities and urban living.


From footage released by Saudi Arabian aerial photography company Ot Sky, we can see the progress made since October 2021, when the project officially started. Construction is going forward despite people's skepticism; the visionary renderings, which have liklinees to an old SciFi movie, appear to be almost utopian. 


What is The Line?

The structure represents an innovative approach to the urbanistic, inspired by the desire to create an ecosystem, in both social and economic aspects, gathered in a sensibly smaller space to reduce waste and pollution and increase the quality of life.


The leading reference is the "Linear City" proposed in 1882 by Arturo Soria y Mata, a Spanish urban planner. The original concept was of a city consisting of functionally specialized sectors built parallel to each other. The growth would have been in length and width after adding a new functional district.


The project aims to tackle the latest needs and ambitions. The Line will be 170km long, 500 meters tall, and about 200 meters wide, aiming to host 9 million inhabitants in 34 square kilometers. Besides the futuristic look and the facilities of the structure, the innovative feature is about mobility and transport, along with the zero-emission policy and the renewable-energy-(only)-based powering. 


The concentration of facilities in such a small space will let habitants reach all the services needed by spending considerably less time walking. Furthermore, moving along The Line will be very fast, thanks to the underground high-speed trains, capable of travelling end-to-end in about 20 minutes. The project is part of NEOM, from the Saudi Vision 2030.


What is Saudi Vision 2030?

It is a strategic plan born to speed up the socio-economic transition of Saudi Arabia. The main objectives are to reduce fossil-oil dependence and evolve social aspects and dynamics like healthcare, infrastructure, and tourism. Hence, drawing-in new investors and strengthening economic activities, and non-oil trade, will possibly lead to a better and different Reign perception. 


The starting investment of around $500 billion is from the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), one of the world's biggest Sovereign Wealth investment funds, along with international investors.


What is NEOM?

It is a megaproject born for the will of Mohammad bin Salman Al Sa'ud, Saudi's Prime Minister and first heir in the succession line to the throne after the actual king Salman, his father.


NEOM's structures will be built in the Tabuk province in Saudi Arabia over an area of about 25,000 square kilometers. The foundation city will have three main areas:

  • The Line

  • Oxagon - Neom Industrial City (NIC) is a port, octagon-shaped, floating industrial complex that will be the industrial conglomerate of Neom.

  • Trojena is an outdoor skiing destination in the Arabic peninsula. It will be built over the highest mountain range in Saudi Arabia, with an altitude between 1500 and 2600 meters.


The NEOM's project received both praise and criticism from public opinion and industry experts, with some concerned about the potential negative environmental impact of the project. Building such a gigantic structure in the middle of the desert will most likely affect the local fauna and flora and influence bird migration, leading to an imbalance in the ecosystem area.  Moreover, the pollution due to the construction site itself can't be underestimated. The site’s thousands of moving machines and workers carry an inevitable release of pollutants into the atmosphere.

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