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What’s the point of Saudi Arabia’s giant sideways desert skyscraper? ‘A big, long symbol of power’

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Saudi Arabia’s proposal for a 105-mile-long building called the Line has all the stuff of a science fiction paperback. The stark desert setting. The kingdom in control of vast amounts of one of the planet’s most crucial resources. The long history of questionable human rights in that cloistered society. The ruler known for authorizing the grisly murder of a high-profile critic while also trying to remake his country’s image with a futuristic large-scale megaproject called Neom.

And then there’s the front-cover illustration: two mirrored skyscrapers housing 9 million people, climbing 1,600 feet high and cutting a straight, monolithic line through the sand.

The Line is a bold proposition, and one that critics have quickly blasted as little more than a very polished but hubristic architectural fantasy. In a recent press release announcing the design of the Line—no cars, 100% renewable energy, everything a resident could want or need within a five-minute walk—Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said “the city’s vertically layered communities will challenge the traditional flat, horizontal cities and create a model for nature preservation and enhanced human livability.”

A promotional animation shows a conventional city on a grid scooped up like sand on the beach into a dense column of packed urbanity.

Even with some ambitious ideas about walkable urbanism and technological solutions to the sustainability challenges of living in a changing climate, this proposal—experts in the history, function, and form of cities say—tests credulity.

But the concept of a linear city actually has deep roots in the world of urban design, according to Robert Fishman, a professor of........

© Fast Company

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