A 75-mile long skyscraper called The Mirror Line project is being planned to be built by Saudi Arabia, announced Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
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Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, asked for a project as big as Egypt’s pyramids when he ordered officials to develop land in the kingdom’s arid northwest.
According to hundreds of pages of corporate planning documents that detail the concept for the first time, urban planners responded with plans for the largest structure in the world: two buildings that are up to 1,600 feet tall that would run parallel for 75 miles in a line across coastal, mountainous, and desert terrain. The buildings would be connected by walkways.
The Mirror Line project, which builds on Prince Mohammed’s earlier announcement of plans to develop a linear community, is anticipated to cost up to a trillion dollars and eventually house about five million people, according to people familiar with the proposition and documents seen by The Wall Street Journal.
According to the documents, which are dated last autumn, a high speed train will travel underneath the mirror-like structures. The proposal envisions integrating vertical farming within the buildings to feed its people. The Mirror Line intends to build a sports arena 1,000 feet above the ground for entertainment purposes. The two buildings will include an arch beneath which is a marina for yachts.
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The Mirror Line is one of several well-known construction initiatives that make up Neom, a development the size of Massachusetts that Prince Mohammed designed to diversify the economy of the kingdom and reduce its dependency on oil. Neom, which is owned by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, aims to draw in foreign capital and generate thousands of new jobs.
However, it has been difficult to attract significant foreign interest and funding up to this point due to the boycott of the kingdom and Prince Mohammed, its de facto ruler, by many Western nations and businesses over Riyadh’s record on human rights in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in 2018.
Following the high-profile meeting between Prince Mohammed and U.S. President Biden last week, the West was no longer isolating Neom, perhaps opening the door for more foreign investment.
In addition, the kingdom is benefiting from unexpectedly high oil prices, which has enabled Prince Mohammed to move on with ambitious projects like Mirror Line that aim to raise his nation to a top travel destination, though the project’s schedule is still subject to change.
If Saudi Arabia is successful in erecting it, it will be an entirely unique structure. The urban planners who are designing it are already having difficulty with it. For instance, they must find answers to numerous issues before the prince’s national transformation plan date of 2030 approaches, including how to control the passage of millions of birds across corridors where the Mirror Line would traverse.
The Mirror Line’s initial impact assessment, which was produced in January 2021, stated that the development would need to be built out gradually and may take 50 years. In the document, Neom personnel expressed concerns that after the pandemic, people could fear living in high-rise buildings and that the sheer size of the building would change the dynamics of groundwater flow in desert wadis and impede the movement of birds and other animals.
The Mirror Line’s architectural styles are reminiscent of Dubai, a nearby city that Prince Mohammed has commended for the speed and ambition of its development, during the go-go real estate era before the global financial crisis. The emirate constructed a palm-shaped island with villas and apartments, the 2,700-foot tallest skyscraper in the world, and an archipelago constructed to resemble the world map.
But not all of Saudi Arabia’s planned developments will likely be completed, just like in Dubai. The world’s highest building was planned by Saudi Arabia during the previous oil boom but afterwards placed on hold. According to The Wall Street Journal, Neom has previously gone through several master plans and experienced an outflow of international staff who were dissatisfied with the rate of progress and the management style.
The Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate Thom Mayne formed the American firm Morphosis Architects, which designed The Mirror Line. At least nine other design and engineering firms were also involved, including WSP Global in Montreal and Thornton Tomasetti in New York. They suggest constructing it in stages using 2,600-foot-long structures that connect along a line and reach heights of up to 1,600 feet, higher than the Empire State Building.
Morphosis refused to respond when contacted. Thornton Tomasetti and WSP both declined to comment.
According to Javier Quintana de Ua, CEO of the Chicago-based charity Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, “they are going for something that has never been done before.”
The Mirror Line, if finished, will cross a mountain range that stretches beside the shore, starting at the Gulf of Aqaba. Planning documents state that it will continue east past a mountain resort and complex home to Saudi Arabia’s government to a “aerotropolis” in the desert plains.
The Line refers to the full 105-mile linear project. Urban planners have been drawn to this idea for more than a century. The “Ciudad Lineal” area of Madrid was influenced by an extended urban expansion that Spanish architect Arturo Soria y Mata wanted to construct in 1882.
In January 2021, Prince Mohammed initially announced his concept for a linear metropolis with no cars and no pollution. He presented the idea in a video as a step forward in human achievement, comparable to the discovery of penicillin and the moon landing, as well as a means of saving lives lost in traffic accidents and pollution.
In the video, he said that “The Line is a project that is a civilizational revolution that puts humans first.”
Neom had only received criticism from human rights organizations a year earlier for trying to evict tribes from the area by force, which resulted in security officers killing a local. The Line, according to Prince Mohammed, aims to enable one million citizens to meet every day within a five-minute walk and to go from start to end in 20 minutes. Details of the proposal, which would safeguard wildlife in the beautiful Northwest and be powered by renewable energy, will come later, he said. Initially, communities were intended to be dotted along The Line by urban planners.
However, The Wall Street Journal claimed last year that the prince ordered those working on The Line in a private conference to think bravely about the design, stating “I want to build my pyramids.”
According to the documents, urban planners have considered how to raise the population of The Line to up to six million people, including up to five million inside the Mirror Line towers. The documents state that in order to provide food for people, vegetables will be “autonomously harvested and bundled” and carried into “community canteens” and “co-living kitchens.” For breakfast, lunch, and dinner to be served, residents will pay a subscription.
The shade produced by a structure comprised of two tall buildings running parallel to one another is one of the biggest problems. According to the documents, a lack of sunlight may be harmful to health.
The curvature of the Earth, which is a unique challenge for construction worldwide, also faces the development.
Designers suggest creating a space at the top of the 2,600-foot modules to “bend” the structures around the world because the earth arc at a rate of around 8 inches every mile, according to the documents.