The Saudi crown prince has unveiled plans for his futuristic NEOM megacity


Photo provided July 26, 2022 by the futuristic megalopolis project NEOM showing the design plan for the 500-meter-high parallel structures, known as “The Line”, in the heart of the Red Sea city (NEOM/ – )

Saudi Arabia’s futuristic NEOM megacity will stretch 170 kilometers and house two huge glass-covered skyscrapers, according to new plans unveiled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, without erasing doubts about the economic feasibility and environment of the project.

Called “The Line”, two massive 500-meter-high parallel skyscrapers will form the centerpiece of the Red Sea city, the multi-hundred-billion-dollar flagship project of Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler in the kingdom, who seeks to diversify the country’s economy in oil.

Along with flying taxis and domestic robots, NEOM has been making a lot of noise since its first announcement in 2017, although architects and economists have questioned its feasibility.

Initially, NEOM was presented as a regional “Silicon Valley”, a biotechnology and digital center spanning 26,500 square kilometers.

Photo provided on July 26, 2022 of the futuristic megalopolis project NEOM shows the design plan for the 500-meter-tall parallel structures, known as

Photo provided July 26, 2022 by the futuristic megalopolis project NEOM showing the design plan for the 500-meter-high parallel structures, known as “The Line”, in the heart of the Red Sea city (NEOM/ – )

But during Monday night’s presentation of “The Line”, the prince sketched a more ambitious vision, describing a utopian city without cars, the most livable “in the whole planet”.

The idea is to rethink urban life in an area of ​​only 34 square kilometers to address “livelihood and environmental crises”, he added, which also aroused the doubts of some.

“The concept has evolved so much since its initial conception that it is sometimes difficult to determine its direction”, commented Robert Mogielnicki of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

– Demographic boom –

The authorities previously mentioned the number of one million inhabitants of NEOM.

Photo provided on July 26, 2022 of the futuristic megalopolis project NEOM shows the design plan for the 500-meter-tall parallel structures, known as

Photo provided July 26, 2022 by the futuristic megalopolis project NEOM showing the design plan for the 500-meter-high parallel structures, known as “The Line”, in the heart of the Red Sea city (NEOM/ – )

The crown prince now sets the bar at 1.2 million inhabitants in 2030 and nine million in 2045, betting on a demographic boom that is necessary, according to him, to make Saudi Arabia an economic power capable of compete in all sectors.

Photo provided on July 26, 2022 of the futuristic megalopolis project NEOM shows the design plan for the 500-meter-tall parallel structures, known as

Photo provided July 26, 2022 by the futuristic megalopolis project NEOM showing the design plan for the 500-meter-high parallel structures, known as “The Line”, in the heart of the Red Sea city (NEOM/ – )

In the country, the goal is to reach 100 million inhabitants by 2040, “almost 30 million Saudis and 70 million or more foreigners”, compared to around 34 million inhabitants today, said Mohammed bin Salman.

“This is the main interest in the construction of NEOM: to increase the capacity (demographic, editor’s note) in Saudi Arabia (…). And since we are doing it from scratch, why copy normal cities?” .

With a width of only 200 meters, “The Line” must respond to uncontrolled urban sprawl and damage the environment, by stacking houses, schools and parks, according to the model of “zero gravity urban planning”.

Photo provided on July 26, 2022 of the futuristic megalopolis project NEOM shows the design plan for the 500-meter-tall parallel structures, known as

Photo provided July 26, 2022 by the futuristic megalopolis project NEOM showing the design plan for the 500-meter-high parallel structures, known as “The Line”, in the heart of the Red Sea city (NEOM/ – )

Residents have access to “all their daily needs” within a five-minute walk, as well as other amenities such as outdoor ski slopes and “a high-speed train with end-to-end trip (from the town) of 20 minutes. ,” according to a press release issued on Monday.

NEOM is also expected to be governed by its own law, which is being drafted, but Saudi officials have already said they have no plans to lift the kingdom’s alcohol ban.

– Fundraising –

Another challenge for NEOM: respecting the promises in terms of protecting the environment in the country made – without convincing environmentalists – to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

Photo provided on July 26, 2022 of the futuristic megalopolis project NEOM shows the design plan for the 500-meter-tall parallel structures, known as

Photo provided July 26, 2022 by the futuristic megalopolis project NEOM showing the design plan for the 500-meter-high parallel structures, known as “The Line”, in the heart of the Red Sea city (NEOM/ – )

According to a promotional video released Monday, the site is entirely powered by renewable energy and has “a year-round temperate microclimate with natural ventilation.”

NEOM is well positioned to benefit from solar and wind power, and the city is set to host the world’s largest green hydrogen plant, said Torbjorn Soltvedt of consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.

“But the feasibility of NEOM as a whole is unclear due to the unprecedented scale and cost of the project.”

The cost of the “first phase”, which will last until 2030, is estimated at 1,200 billion Saudi riyals (about 319 billion dollars), according to Prince Mohammed.

In addition to government grants, funds are expected to come from the private sector and NEOM’s planned IPO in 2024.

Photo provided on July 26, 2022 of the futuristic megalopolis project NEOM shows the design plan for the 500-meter-tall parallel structures, known as

Photo provided July 26, 2022 by the futuristic megalopolis project NEOM showing the design plan for the 500-meter-high parallel structures, known as “The Line”, in the heart of the Red Sea city (NEOM/ – )

Funding remains a potential challenge, although the current context, marked by rising oil prices, is more favorable for the kingdom than during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, “funding is only part of the equation”, emphasizes Robert Mogielnicki.

“It’s harder to buy demand, especially when you’re asking people to participate in an experiment about living and working in the future.”

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