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"The Line", a New Wonder for the World, or a Complete Joke?

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

🕑 4 min By Mariusz Rzepa

1. What is The Line?

In January 2021, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, His Royal Highness Mohammed bin Salman announced the plans for the utopian-like linear city built in his country. The whole project currently valued between 100 and 200 billion US$ is a brave attempt to build a metropolis solely powered by “clean” renewable energy, providing a house for up to 9 million inhabitants. The project will be conducted by a company named Noem, to represent the province it is built in.

The Line is intended to adopt the rectangular shape built on the mirror glass facade. The whole construction is projected to be 200 meters wide, 500 meters tall (for comparison, the Empire State Building has 450 meters), and 170km long. Furthermore, it will be located in the southern part of the Gulf, and cross three different regions: Coastal Desert, Mountain, and Upper Valley. The Line is a civilizational revolution that puts humans first, providing an unprecedented urban living experience while preserving the surrounding nature, states Noem.

2. Inventors’ promises

Line’s creator also announced the presence of autonomous services provided to every inhabitant. These services would range from cleaning, and delivery, even to simple grocery shopping and would be performed by AI technologies, with no human inference. Furthermore, there will be no space for cars as there won’t be any, thanks to the fact that the whole city will be connected by high-speed rail. The futuristic, inner-city train will travel the entire length of the city within only 20 minutes. Following that, traveling between the destinations will be extremely efficient. Additionally, the city will be divided into thousands of local communities, each community will be largely self-contained so that every amenity necessary for the inhabitant (school, hospital, shop, or restaurant) will be accessible within a 5-minute-walk from the domicile.

Regarding the environmental aspect of the project, it is intended to be built and merged with the natural landscape of the Tabuk province, with minimal impact on the surrounding microclimate. The line is supposed to provide the citizens immediate access to nature within a two-minute walk through its diverse open spaces while providing a view of the surrounding landscape. Finally, a major point is that the Line will operate on 100% renewable energy, with zero pollution- zero waste transport, inhabitant, and industrial systems. The Line inventors forecast that the whole city will be built causing a footprint of 34 km2, and when the project will be completely built, it won't have any footprint at all. However, when compared to the other similar-size city London in terms of population, for the footprint measures sprawl at 1570km2. Therefore, many experts think that the Line’s results are unbelievable and unachievable for any city this size.

Those results are actually so unbelievable, that the whole project encountered critics doubting the technological and architectural assumptions of the idea. Henry Grabar, a journalist who specialized in cities, states that those inventions “would fit more into comic book and sci-fi movies beloved by its millennial boss, rather than see the daylight”. Following this thought, humanity did not discover sufficient technology to be able to finish the whole building on time, which is by the beginning of 2030.

3. Media’s response, political backlash and continuity of a project

Stating that the further-presented goals seem far-fetched is quite understandable. The whole project needs to achieve publicity and global interest in order for it to gain an audience. Promising unreal, sci-fi-style resolutions, the project will definitely catch more attention, which is necessary for the company as it is desperately searching for a talented workforce, and new investors, who will contribute to the idea.

Whether the project will be a success will be observable in the scope of 8 years. As of now, it could be stated that certain, initial projects have started. However, these early projects have already taken part in scandals. The “virgin land” (as was it named by the Noem), or the place where the Line is intended to be situated, turns out not to be virgin at all. It is the ancestral and current home for many people including the members of the Huwaitat tribe, who are being forced to move out of their homes.

For these tribes, this terrain is an old heritage, a place of cult, and a culture hub occupied for centuries. The brave members who have dared to speak and refused to leave the land have been harassed and abducted by Saudi Arabia’s security forces, arrested, and even killed. Suleiman Mohammed al-Taqique al-Hwait, a prominent activist of the tribe, was killed by the police, after posting videos that were trying to raise awareness on this issue. The whole scandal will continue as the UN has started to investigate the whole conflict. The unethical behavior of Saudi Arabia’s authorities upholds doubt about the Line’s project continuation. Therefore, as of today, it is unclear whether or not the world will be able to witness this first glimpse of our potential future.

Sources: Grabar, McLaughin, Michaelson, Morgan, Neom, O’Brien & Oh

Written by Mariusz Rzepa

October 2022

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