Saudis given a first glimpse inside The Line, the kingdom's newest megaproject

Exhibition in Jeddah gives the public a look at life in the city of the future

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Saudi Arabia’s newest megaproject, The Line, created interest around the world when it was unveiled last month.

Now, Saudis at home are being offered their first glimpse inside it at an exhibition in Jeddah.

Makkah governor Prince Khalid Al Faisal said he planned to be the first to book accommodation in the megacity, in a clip of him touring the exhibition which has since gone viral.

Members of the public expressed excitement about the proposal for a skyscraper 170 kilometres long, 200 metres wide and more than 300 metres tall, creating a new linear city expected to be home to nine million people.

"I am mind-blown, is this real? Is this Saudi? Our future has never looked better!" said Hala Salih, 20, a Saudi visitor to the exhibition told The National on Thursday.

Ayah, a Lebanese citizen visiting the exhibition, said the guides answered all her questions about The Line.

“I particularly loved the fact we will have a museum, sports stadium and even the cool-looking yoga studio overlooking Neom's landscape," she said.

What is The Line?

The project’s designers are hoping that the small, linear footprint will minimise the effect on the surrounding environment and are aiming to build a sustainable, eco-city where people live, work and spend time within minutes of each other. The project will include a high-speed rail network as well as other forms of transport.

"The designs revealed for the city's vertically layered communities will challenge the traditional flat, horizontal cities and create a model for nature preservation and enhanced human liveability," Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said about The Line.

The Line will be built in Neom, on the Red Sea in the north-west of Saudi Arabia, as part of a megaproject offering people a novel way to live.

The diverse terrain includes red desert expanses and snow-topped mountains with views of the Gulf of Aqaba.

"Forty per cent of the world is less than six hours away by air and 13 per cent of global trade passes through the Red Sea," a representative at the exhibition said.

Inside The Line

The exhibition comprises blueprints, models of the megaproject and concept art for the proposal, showing an urban space with wide-open areas spread over numerous levels dappled in sunlight and shade. The structure and design will provide natural ventilation and the coolest temperatures in the GCC, the designers say.

The organisers say reimagining urban living in 3D is key to The Line and prevents ugly, urban sprawl.

The guided tours, run by young Saudi women for groups of 15, show how people will live and travel around The Line between communities.

"The modules are designed to house up to 80,000 people in close proximity to their work," one of the tour guides said, adding that leisure, education and health services will be close at hand via high-speed rail links that will take less than 20 minutes from end to end.

"For those who say that this project is too ambitious, I would tell them that if humanity is not visionary in this precise moment, in which we are facing the challenges of climate change, lack of human interaction, pollution, when are we going to be ambitious?" said Antoni Vives, chief urban planning officer. "Certainly, we're thinking bold because we are reflecting the level of the challenges that the world has today."

Construction of The Line is ambitious, the teams behind it say. Rather than a series of buildings, the facade will be a continuous structure presenting significant challenges to the designers and teams on the ground.

“We will be prototyping equipment, connecting equipment autonomously and training people to use it using virtual — as well as real-world – methods,” said Roger Nickells, who heads the design and construction department.

They will be using 3D-printing, robotics and more conventional building techniques to bring it all together.

“It’s not just innovation, we need application at scale," said Mr Nickells. "Many cultures will come and work together to build Neom and other projects in the region."

Neom also plans to be the first desert environment to be self-sufficient in food, using integrated systems.

“[Neom will be] locally producing the food that makes environmental and economic sense," said Dr Juan Carlos Motamayor, head of the food sector for Neom.

He added that Neom will represent a virtuous circle, growing and farming food dense in nutrients while offering residents nutritional services tailored to their needs.

Neom chief executive Nadhmi Al Nasr said: "The heart of Neom is The Line. I believe when we share this with the world, the reception will be [that] this is a revolution."

Updated: August 19, 2022, 7:52 AM
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