Saudi Arabia’s proposal for a 105-mile-long building is said to be Line Has all the stuff of a science fiction paperback. Stark desert setting. The state in control of vast amounts of one of the planet’s most important resources. Long history of questionable human rights in that closed society. The ruler is known to authorize in cold blood as a high-profile critic, while trying to remake his country’s image with a future massive megaproject called NEOM,
And then there’s the illustration of the front cover: two mirrored skyscrapers housing 9 million people, which soar 1,600 feet high and cut a straight, unbroken line through the sand.
Rekha is a bold proposition, and one that critics have quickly spotted destroyed Little more than a very polished but hubristic architectural spec. recently Press release Announcing the line’s design – no cars, 100% renewable energy, everything a resident could want or need within a five-minute walk – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: Vertically layered communities will challenge traditional flat, horizontal cities and create a model for nature conservation and enhancing human livability.”
a promotional animations A traditional city on a grid is depicted in a dense column of urbanism filled with sand on a beach.
Even with some ambitious ideas about tech solutions to the sustainability challenges of walkable urbanism and living in a changing climate, this proposal—history, function and cities as experts say—tests reliability.
But the concept of a linear city actually has deep roots in the world of urban design, according to Robert Fishman, professor of architecture and urban planning at the University of Michigan and author of a book. Urban Utopia in the twentieth century,
One of the first proposed linear cities was designed for Madrid in the 1880s. “The reason urban design comes back to the linear city is because it really has a functional logic to it,” Fishman says.
The Linear City was designed as a solution to the challenge of accommodating a growing industry and the people who work in that industry. Often located along a transport corridor such as a rail line, residences can be placed in one section and factories in another. This was in times before zoning, when smoke-fired factories were often located in dense neighborhoods.
“The linear city was an essential utopianism in response to the typical industrial district of the time, a visionary alternative to a truly inefficient and dehumanizing environment,” says Fishman.
The Saudi Arabia line may be a modern version of that alternate city plan. “I think we are at a similar moment in terms of being trapped in these still unstable urban forms and in need of an alternative,” Fishman says.
Brenda Case Scheer is Professor of City Planning at the University of Utah and author of urban development, She says the linear city being proposed in Saudi Arabia is hardly a unique concept, but it also ignores some of the basic realities of cities taking shape.
“Most cities aren’t designed to be. That’s a misnomer to begin with. Most cities grow from a small space to a large space over hundreds of years, and they start because they have a reason to start.” Happens,” she says. “A city is not something you drop somewhere in the desert. It is not a big house, and that is what it feels like.”
line rendering, Designed by architecture firm Morphosis, Plant-lined balconies and building facades show park-like walkways and a valley in the middle of canals. (An executive working on the project even suggested that children in line would be able to use those canals swim for school,
Scheer is highly skeptical of that vision, especially the possibility of humans occupying the deep reaches of the city only 650 feet wide.
“It’s an extremely dark sight. I mean that both literally and figuratively,” Sheer says. “You can’t breathe fresh air, you can’t grow daisies on your front porch, you can’t grow in the cracks of the sidewalk. Can’t even mourn. It’s like an airport.”
Renderings show natural light filtering into the line’s deep valley, from above and below through its mirrored glass façades, but darkness and shadows will be unavoidable in most of the space.
The project’s promotional materials, apparently, paint a rosy picture, suggesting it could be a new model for a sustainable city, one whose internal climate is controlled year-round and whose narrow footprint is a new metropolis. Minimizes the destruction of nature needed to create. ,
Scheer argues that the embodied carbon required to build such a project would be much higher than whatever sustainability elements were implemented, also noting that such a project would be necessary to live up to its goal of becoming a city. would not be likely to last long enough. “It’s a building, and buildings don’t last that long,” she says. “The bigger the building, the faster it gets old.”
And yet it’s not impossible for an immediate city to rise in the desert, says Ethel Sarah Wolpert, a history professor at the University of New Hampshire who has studied the history of cities in the Middle East.
“If you think about Dubai, it was the sleepy city that completely remodeled itself,” says Wolpert. “It shows what you can make. And I think Bin Salman likes to push those boundaries, like what if you had all the money in the world you could make?”
Whether utopia or dystopia, according to Fishman, the line proposes techno-fueled updates to the ideal cities of the 1800s, who says, “none of this makes it particularly practical as a real project.” , but it has these interesting ties to speculation about how a truly efficient future city might function.”
Scheer argues that there may be technical means to build such a project, but it is not clear why such a project is needed in the working cities of the world.
“The interesting thing here is, you don’t have to have a car. But you also don’t have a car on the Greek island, and you don’t have a car in the old Medina in Saudi Arabia,” she says. “The only reason to do this is to build a kind of prison for his people and keep them in complete control in the dark. It tells more about the prince than about the technology.”
Scheer calls the line “a big, tall symbol of power”, noting that even though the idea of a linear city is not new, very few have ever been successfully built. She says the best cities are those that can adapt to the changing needs of the people living in them and grow both above and beyond. Like that traditional gridded city wants to clear the line.
“As an urban form,” Scheer says, “the grid is popular because it’s so flexible.”