Saudi Arabia Plans 'Linear City' That Will Cram 9 Million People Into A 105-Mile Line

Mason Joseph Zimmer
girl flies through CGI representation of planned "liner city" in Saudi Arabia
youtube | NEOM

A "linear city" project funded by the Saudi Arabian government called The Line is making some Utopian promises against sprawl and pollution, but is attracting critics who think it sounds more like a dystopia.

As the world's climate change crisis shows more worrying signs each year, scientists throughout the world have pondered solutions to either prevent or mitigate the effect of climate change on future generations.

And while some of the resulting ideas concern small-scale products aimed to make life easier as things get worse, others are presenting themselves as a way to protect some semblance of biodiversity in the wake of mass extinctions.

Just these examples should give you a sense of how much prospective solutions to climate change vary in scope and ambition, but none seem as ambitious as one project coming out of Saudi Arabia.

But as we'll soon see, ambition isn't quite everything.

On July 25, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced plans for a megacity called Neom that will be built according to a concept called The Line.

CGI rendering of mirrored walled "linear city" next to desert monutains in Saudi Arabia
youtube | NEOM

According to The Guardian, the city was first pitched in 2017 as a utopia adorned with flying taxis and robot maids, but will now take the form of a 105-mile long, narrow structure in Saudi Arabia's northwestern deserts.

As NPR reported, the proposed "linear city" with mirrored walls is also intended to be about 546 yards above sea level, making its entire length about as tall as the Empire State Building.

As for how narrow Neom will be, promotional materials are promising a "footprint" of just 12 square miles as the city's width is 218 yards.

In you're wondering why Neom was designed this way, it's apparently supposed to answer longtime concerns of sprawl and sustainability we tend to see with major cities.

CGI rendering of trees and walkways in "linear city" planned in Saudi Arabia
youtube | NEOM

Prince Mohammed has also claimed that the city will be powered by 100% renewable energy and feature an ideal climate year-round thanks to "natural ventilation."

As we can see, it's also supposed to be filled with trees, gardens, and other plant life. And as the full video claims, it's supposed to feature immediate access to nature in the surrounding areas.

As Prince Mohammed put it, "The designs revealed today for the city's vertically layered communities will challenge the traditional flat, horizontal cities and create a model for nature preservation and enhanced human livability."

Construction is already underway and the project is expected to cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

According to NPR, the three-dimensional layout of the boxed-in city would allow residents to run most of their errands within a five-minute walk of their house.

girl flies through CGI representation of planned "liner city" in Saudi Arabia
TikTok | NEOM

And while there are no cars or roads planned into this design, residents are supposed to be able to go from one end of Neom to the other in 20 minutes thanks to high-speed rail systems.

As The Guardian reported, the city's population was once expected to top out at 1 million, but Prince Mohammed is now suggesting that 1.2 million people will live there by 2030 and that the population will skyrocket to 9 million in 2045.

In other words, he and his partners are intending to fit almost one million more people than the population of New York City into a 150 mile line that only takes up 12 square miles.

And both that staggering density and its overall structure are leading commenters to levy criticisms to the effect of, "I never seen something more dystopian."

And while New Urban Mobility Alliance advisor Carlos Felipe Pardo doesn't go quite that far, he has noted that similar attempts at the ideal city in Brazil, India, Malaysia, and Abu Dhabi have caused as many problems as they've solved.

As he said, "This solution is a little bit like wanting to live on Mars because things on Earth are very messy."

And while he's said that some of its ideas could be implemented well in existing cities, this project seems to over-promise while making it harder for residents to simply go outside.

In his words, "This seems impossible, greatly limited or just plain artificial."

h/t: The Guardian, NPR