Possibly the biggest and most divisive architectural project is Neom. Here, we go through the major specifics of the Saudi Arabian development, which includes The Line megacity.
What Neom Is
Neom is a sizable region of Saudi Arabia that has been designated for development as a result of an effort by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who serves as the country’s de facto ruler. Neom is sometimes referred to as a “smart city,” although it is actually a territory that will house multiple cities, resorts, and other developments.
The Public Investment Fund, which makes investments on behalf of the Saudi Arabian government, provides the majority of the funding for the project. According to Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO of the Saudi development business founded to build Neom, the fund is putting $500 billion into the project. It is a component of the Saudi Vision 2030 plan to diversify the economy and lessen reliance on oil.
Where Is Neom?
Neom is a region in northwest Saudi Arabia that is about 10,200 square miles (26,500 square kilometers) in size. This resembles Albania in terms of size. The Red Sea to the south and the Gulf of Aqaba to the west encircle the region.
What shall there be in Neom?
The creator claims that Neom will comprise ten projects, or “regions.” Four of the regions’ specifics have been revealed so far. The most well-known of these is The Line, followed by Oxagon, Trojena, and Sindalah.
Nine million people will live in The Line, a 170-kilometer-long linear city. It will span the Neom area from east to west. The metropolis will be made up of two parallel, 500-meter-tall, linear buildings that are spaced 200 meters apart, according to the developer. The façade of the buildings will be reflective.
In the far south of the Neom region, a port city named Oxagon is slated to be constructed as an octagon on the Red Sea. The port and logistics center will be the “world’s largest floating structure,” according to Neom’s creator.
“World’s Largest Floating Structure”
The Line (top) and Trojena ski resort (above) or two of four regions that have been unveiled
Trojena: In the Sarwat Mountains, to the north of the Neom region, Trojena is slated to be a ski resort. The 2029 Asian Winter Games will be held at the 60 square kilometres of skiing and outdoor recreation resort.
Sindalah: A resort island in the Red Sea is planned for Sindalah. The 86-berth marina and various hotels will be located on the 840,000 square metre island, which is geared towards the yachting community.
Who are the architectural studios responsible for Neom?
Only a small number of architecture firms have been formally named as the Neom project’s designers. The Neom website lists US studio Aecom as a partner.
The developer of Neom said that the US studio Aedas, the UK’s Zaha Hadid Architects, the Netherlands’ UNStudio, Germany’s LAVA, and Australia’s Bureau Proberts are working on the project.
The development will also include the Oxagon port.
The designer of the Sindalah resort has been named as the Italian superyacht and architecture firm Luca Dini Design and Architecture.
Numerous more studios have been linked to Neom, and a Riyadh display of The Line mentioned a number of such studios. The amount of the studios’ involvement, meanwhile, was not made explicit in the show, and some studios told Dezeen that they were no longer involved in the project.
The Line’s principal architect, Morphosis, a US design studio, was acknowledged in the exhibition. At a lecture last month, its founder Thom Mayne seemed to confirm this, saying he was working on a city that was “a big planning thing in Saudi Arabia that I can’t talk about.”
Adjaye Associates and Peter Cook’s studio CHAP are located in the UK, as are Coop Himmelb(l)au and Delugan Meissl Associated Architects in Austria, and Studio Fuksas in Italy. Other studios thought to be working on The Line are Tom Wiscombe Architecture, Oyler Wu Collaborative, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, and HOK in the US.
Former Barcelona deputy mayor Antoni Vives, who serves as The Line’s principal urban planning officer, is in charge of the project’s design.
Initially a member of the Neom advisory board, British architect Norman Foster resigned in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi’s death. His studio, Foster + Partners, acknowledged that the company is not actively working on the project through a spokesman.
When will Neom be constructed?
Neom is working on a large project under aggressive deadlines.
Drone footage from The Line’s construction site preparation was made public last year, and Neom just published a video showcasing some of the site’s progress.
The Sindalah luxury island is the first component that Neom’s developer plans to finish, with the goal of having the first visitors arrive in early 2024.
Drone footage revealed last year showed preparation works at The Line site.
Oxagon, a port city, will come next; it is anticipated that the first people will move in by 2024 and that the onshore portion of the city would be finished by 2030. Trojena, a ski resort, is scheduled to open in 2026.
The Line, the greatest component of Neom, will “be rolled out between now and 2045,” according to the creator. By 2030, it is planned that one million people would reside in The Line. These timelines have received criticism from certain observers.
The developer claims that 2,400 employees already reside and work at Neom.
Why is Neom such a controversial topic?
There are three key issues with the Neom project: sustainability, liveability, and human rights.
There are many issues with Saudi Arabia’s human rights record; Amnesty International produced a list of 10 ways the country “violates human rights” on its website, while Freedom House rated the country 7/100 in its worldwide freedom ranking.
Despite widespread worries about Saudi Arabia’s human rights situation and the individuals who will be working on the massive project, the Neom controversy directly relates to evictions that took happened prior to construction.
The Huwaitat tribe’s historical heartland is the area that is slated for development, and it is anticipated that over 20,000 tribe members would be displaced to make room for the construction.
Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti, a member of the tribe, published films online in 2020 to raise awareness of these evictions. Later, the BBC reported that Saudi security forces had killed Al-Huwaiti.
Three individuals associated to Al-Huwaiti, who were forcibly removed from the Neom site in 2020, were found guilty of capital crimes last year, according to human rights charity ALQST.
According to Peter Frankental of Amnesty International, firms working on Neom are confronted with a “moral dilemma” and should “think twice” before proceeding with the project. Neom’s developer has also claimed a number of sustainability promises, including that the project will use only renewable energy.