In 2021, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman revealed the country’s plans to build The Line, a smart linear city that will be constructed vertically, have no roads or cars and run purely on renewable energy. Now, the Saudi government has released image renders of what The Line could look like once it’s done. The city was designed to only be 200 meters (656 feet) wide, but 500 meters (1,640 feet) tall and 170 kilometers (105 miles) long. It will house multiple communities encased in a glass facade running along the coast and will eventually be able to accommodate up to 9 million residents.
The Line’s designers envision a city wherein facilities are just a five-minute walk away from people and where residents can organically bump into each other as they go about their daily errands. While it will have no roads and won’t be able to accommodate cars, it will have a high-speed rail for end-to-end transit that will take 20 minutes. It will also rely on a natural ventilation system to make sure residents enjoy the ideal climate all year round.
The Saudi Crown Prince said in a statement:
“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. THE LINE will tackle the challenges facing humanity in urban life today and will shine a light on alternative ways to live.”
The Line is part of Saudi’s $500 billion Neom mega-city project being built in the country’s Tabuk Province. It’s a divisive initiative that’s been beset with controversy from the time it started, because around 20,000 people will be forced to relocate by its construction. The residents facing eviction belong to the Huwaitat indigenous tribe, who can trace their lineage before Saudi was even founded.
According to Al Jazeera, a prominent Huwaitat activist was arrested and imprisoned in 2020 in relation to the tribe’s refusal to relocate. Another Huwaitat activist also told the news organization that year that at least 15 other tribe members were abducted and imprisoned. Two of them were reportedly taken after criticizing the Saudi government and the Neom project on social media. In addition, expats recruited to work on the initiative criticized its management for making unrealistic demands and turning a blind eye to discrimination, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The controversies surrounding Neom had compelled Riot Games to quickly go back on its decision to enter a sponsorship agreement with the mega-city project. Neom was supposed to be a main partner for Riot’s LEC esports championship in Europe two years ago until backlash from fans caused the company to end the sponsorship deal a mere 24 hours later.