THE LINE Saudi Arabia, Neom
Published in l'Arca International 171
The Line is a new linear city whose 200-metre section and precise east-west alignment is intended to extend for 170 km from the Gulf of Aqaba eastwards into the province of Tabuk, cutting through the Hijaz mountains.
The Line is part of a more elaborate urbanisation project for this part of Saudi Arabia, which includes other projects such as Oxagon and Trojena and goes under the name Neom after the property development company of the same name owned by the Saudi Sovereign Public Investment Fund.
Alongside perplexities regarding energy, construction, environmental, ecological and even social issues when considering the conflicting relationships between the layout of the new city and old settlements of the Howeitat tribe – which has 20,000 members –, what is most disconcerting about the entire project is the principle of founding a city in the desert where there are no significant pre-existing settlements.
All this at a time when hundreds of millions of migrants are seeking better living conditions in new places, risking their lives in the process, and contributing to the exponential growth of makeshift settlements that accommodate one in three families and are disproportionately contributing to the expansion of global metropolises, The Line is aimed at urbanising the desert by enclosing all its inhabitants in a continuous air-conditioned monument connected by lightning-fast convoys and drone-taxis – and, so it is claimed, Ghislanzoni-style “Abrakadabra” flying gondolas in the near future – capable of transporting its inhabitants across the new settlement, so they can observe the ever-changing desert landscape, while they can admire an inhabited Land Art work from thr dunes and empty space.
The urgent need to rethink and experiment with new cities that can exploit the potential of cutting-edge technologies and set out to address the immense social and environmental problems afflicting humanity and the planet, tackling issues related to the surrounding production-scape and pre-existing city, which of course attracts great masses in search of fortune or even just a more dignified life, is unfortunately not felt by The Line, as it is generally not felt by modern-day academia, business and our institutions. Lorenzo Degli Esposti