NEOM's The Line

Totally Mad? Or Utterly Profound?

John Hill
18. July 2023
Photo: Screenshot from “THE LINE: Saudi Arabia's City of the Future in NEOM”

The questions in the title — “totally mad? or utterly profound?” — come early in the documentary from the mouth of OMA partner Rienier de Graaf, seemingly a stand-in for skeptical viewers. The words are also indicative of the perspectives of the people involved, with many of them in the film articulating the paradoxical nature of The Line. Can a 170-kilometer-long, 500-meter-tall “city” in the desert for 9 million people, all sheathed in mirror-finish glass, really be considered sustainable? Can it be anything but a place of luxury catering to the rich? While some of the people in the film, especially the directors of NEOM*, exhibit nary any doubt in the project's potential, the understandable skepticism of the architects, critics, and other voices seem geared to deflecting criticism, to assuaging concerns that might derail the project. Though not entirely a promotional film, the documentary does a decent job in provoking enthusiasm over The Line.

*The Line is just one component of the larger NEOM project, which also includes Sindalah, a luxury island; Oxagon, a fully automated next-generation port; and Trojena, a mountain destination that will host the Asia Winter Games in 2029.

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