What, Again, Is 'The Line'?

26. July 2022
Photo: Screenshot

At the time of its initial unveiling in January of last year, The Line was predicated on the belief that conventional contemporary cities are unsustainable and unhealthy. In turn, the Crown Prince and his company, NEON, envisioned The Line a series of walkable, sustainable communities connected via an underground network of high-speed transit and an "invisible" service grid, in which AI technology would overlay the whole to "learn and predict ways to make life easier to save time for residents and businesses."

Many of the same assertions hold true in yesterday's announcement of designs for The Line, but most striking is the articulation of The Line as a continuous 500-meter-tall, 200-meter-wide "city" a whopping 170 kilometers long, extending eastward from the Red Sea. Equal parts science fiction and visionary architecture from the late 1960s (remember Superstudio?), the fantastical nature of The Line — as depicted in the short film below — is accentuated by the mirror glass facades facing outward and the canyon-like interior with bridges, vegetation, and AI enabling drones delivering everything residents need.

Housing 9 million residents in a footprint of just 34 square kilometers, The Line and its "5-minute walk neighborhoods" would be a built version of what NEOM calls "Zero Gravity Urbanism," where people would have the "possibility of moving seamlessly in three dimensions (up, down or across)" to access [city functions]." The Line would supposedly have zero carbon emissions due to being car-free, though that assertion does not appear to take into account the construction or operation of a 170-kilometer city in a desert climate.

Although the two-minute film boasts that The Line is "designed by world-leading architects," and yesterday's announcement similarly mentions "a team of the brightest minds in architecture, engineering and construction," no firms are mentioned. One news outlet, Dezeen, is reporting that it "understands that the megastructure was designed by US studio Morphosis," following from some reports earlier in the year that the firm was added to the team planning The Line. 

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