Saudi Arabia is turning architectural design on its side, quite literally. Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has unveiled plans to create The Mirror Line, a one-of-a-kind project that will serve as the cornerstone of the country’s new ‘zero-carbon-city’. Designed as part of the NEOM project, which also includes OXAGEN, a reimagined manufacturing destination, ENOWA, a water and hydrogen system and TROJENA, a global mountain tourism structure, The Mirror Line is 170 kilometres in length, 500 metres above sea level, and 200 metres wide, making it one sustainable sausage-like structure.
The announcement comes just months after Saudi Arabia confirmed plans to turn an abandoned oil rig into a multi-million theme-park, in an effort to lure tourists to the region, however, this project has a far more environmental focus. Conceptualised by Morphosis Architects, the new project is a step towards a carbon-free utopia, which crown prince Mohammed bin Salman previously outlined as a major goal for the country. Back in 2021, the head of state revealed plans to build a futuristic city with “zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions” with enough room for nine million residents.
“After the Industrial Revolution, cities prioritised machines, cars and factories over people. In cities that are viewed as the world’s most advanced, people spend years of their lives commuting,” Crown prince Mohammed said in a press release at the time. “By 2050, commute durations will double. By 2050, one billion people will have to relocate due to rising CO2 emissions and sea levels. Ninety per cent of people breathe polluted air. Why should we sacrifice nature for the sake of development? Why should seven million people die every year because of pollution? Why should we lose one million people every year due to traffic accidents? And why should we accept wasting years of our lives commuting?”
A year on from that empassioned announcement and Saudi Arabia has finally debuted a first look at the proposed construction. Running on 100 per cent renewable energy, The Mirror Line is comprised of two monsterous buildings, each 16,000 feet high (for reference, the Empire State Building is only 1,454 feet tall) that run parallel to one another for a total of 170 miles. Importantly, as Saudi Arabia’s geographic features present a series of unique challenges, The Mirror Line will be forced to traverse some of the most diverse terrains on the planet, passing through coasts, deserts and fiercely mountainous regions. Inside, however, the world’s longest skyscraper will be a stunning feat of design innovation.
The Mirror Line will feature a high-speed train that will operate in an underground capacity, providing carbon-free transport to the upto nine million residents. From there, the project will also include a marina and vertical farm, while also debuting a sports stadium in the very heart of the build.
According to NEOM, the unique concept of layering city functions vertically has allowed the architects to provide a renewed ability to move seamlessly in three dimensions, a concept the company refers to as “Zero Gravity Urbanism”. Utilising this framework, his Royal Highness and the NEOM board of directors are planning on layering public parks and pedestrian areas, schools, homes and places for work, with the goal that residents will have access to all facilities in THE LINE within a five-minute walk.
“At THE LINE’s launch last year, we committed to a civilizational revolution that puts humans first based on a radical change in urban planning,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said. “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. We cannot ignore the livability and environmental crises facing our world’s cities, and NEOM is at the forefront of delivering new and imaginative solutions to address these issues.”
Somewhat unsurprisingly, The Mirror Line won’t come cheap or any time soon, for that matter. The Wall Street Journal reported that construction costs are expected to venture as high as USD$1 trillion, with initial estimates suggesting The Mirror Line could take up to 50 years to build. Here’s hoping we’re still around long enough to see it.