Saudi Arabia’s $1 Trillion Skyscraper, 2023

Saudi Arabia has just unveiled plans for the biggest and most absurd megaproject ever. The crown prince Muhammad Bin Salman wants to build two 500-meter tall parallel skyscrapers stretching 170 kilometers across mountains & desert terrain. The project is called the Mirror Line and turning this into reality would be like building 2000 One World Trade Centers next to each other – twice. Since only 12 skyscrapers in the world have crossed the 500-meter height barrier so far, building 4000 of these at the same time & at the same place sounds like a ridiculous idea. So why has Saudi Arabia announced something so insane? Can they really make it happen? Or are they just trying to gain worldwide attention? Few countries in the world can claim to have a transformation plan as ambitious as Saudi Arabia. In 2016, the kingdom announced Vision 2030 — a diversification plan that would reduce the country’s dependence on Oil and shift the economy towards Tourism, Technology, and other sectors. Since then they have revealed a master plan called NEOM meaning ‘new future’. NEOM will be a futuristic smart city and currently consists of 3 massive megaprojects.

NEOM will be a futuristic smart city and currently
consists of 3 massive megaprojects.

The first part of the development is a floating, 8-sided industrial complex called the Oxagon, which would serve as a port for shipping routes through the Red Sea. In addition the city will have a major outdoor skiing destination called TROJENA in the Arabian Peninsula where entertainment and events should take place throughout the entire year. However, none of these plans are as extravagant as the Mirror line that was first announced in January 2021. More details of this proverbial Line have been revealed recently and calling it insane would be an understatement. So, what is the Mirror Line? It’s made up of two 500-meter-high buildings that will run parallel to each other across 170 kilometers of desert terrain. These parallel structures will have mirrored exteriors and just 200 meters of space in between to house a city of 9 million residents. The linear city will start at the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea and reach into the country, cutting through mountains and desert terrain. The two mirrored facades will be connected via walkways. Most of the interiors will be vertically built and will contain public parks, offices, and homes on top of each other. So basically, their plan is to stack the infrastructure of a normal city vertically on top of each other. But not only that, their plan is also to be 100% sustainable and feature the most modern technology. Those living inside will be fed through vertical farming, integrated into the 500-meter-high walls. On top of that, the structure is also supposed to include a marina for yachts, and a sports stadium built up to 305 meters above the ground. But, is it possible to build it? Or will it ever be? Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has called the Mirror Line “a revolution in civilization”, but the Mirror Line seems more like a massive wonderland that will come to life straight out of a fiction book. Saudi Arabia wants to build parts of it by 2030 and move in more than a million tenants. However, while humanity has built some massive structures in some of the most difficult landscapes, the Mirror Line simply promises too much in too little time. Saudi Arabia’s latest track record when building extraordinary skyscrapers isn’t great either. For example, the Jeddah Tower which was supposed to become the tallest building in the world remains on hold and only reached around one-third of its originally proposed height. On the other side Saudi Arabia is home to the 4th tallest skyscraper in the world. The Mirror Line is unlike anything ever built in history. But it could be compared to the grand plans of the Illinois over 60 years ago. This building was supposed to be 1 mile high, which was insane at the time. Just like the Illinois, the Mirror Line may only remain limited to paper, or in this case to 3d-renderings and marketing videos.

Just like the Illinois, the Mirror Line may
only remain limited to paper, or in this case

But this time, the whole world is watching and around 50 million people already watched one of their trailers. So why does Saudi Arabia propose something so extraordinary, when the promises most likely can’t be met? Ever since Muhammad Bin Salman took over affairs of the country, Saudi Arabia has gone on a drive to rebrand its image.

drive to rebrand its image.

Projects like the Mirror Line are a part of that rebranding effort and are guaranteed to attract international attention. Saudi Arabia wants to be seen as a country that has much more to offer and they want to diversify the economy towards Tourism but as of now, most visitors to the country make the Trip for Pilgrimage. With headline-grabbing announcements like the Mirror Line, Saudi Arabia wants to be seen differently in the International community. The project also holds significance for crown prince Muhammad Bin Salman personally, who has compared it with some of the Middle East’s biggest megaprojects and regards the Mirror Line as “My Pyramids”. NEOM is supposed to become Saudi Arabia’s own architectural landmark and announcing an unbelievable project in the middle of it will build anticipation. In addition, the website states that NEOM is “a vision of what a new future might look like”. So it also could be seen as a research project for alternative city structures and modern transportation concepts. With the announcement of the Mirror Line, Saudi Arabia has successfully gained international attention. However, most responses haven’t been positive. Many questions are left unanswered. They want to build a city with a 100% sustainable transport system and Zero Emissions, however, there is no mention of the massive carbon footprint that building something like this will leave behind. According to estimates from Oldfield at the University of New South Wales, building The Line would emit close to 2 billion tonnes of CO2, which is more than four years of all CO2 emissions in the UK. The promise of creating a carbon-neutral city doesn’t sound too convincing when considering these immense construction emissions. Also, critics have been quick to point out Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and are already calculating the human cost of Saudi Arabia’s plans. In the region, there are several indigenous tribes who lived in towns and villages for hundreds of years. According to there are around 20,000 people that are forced to make room for NEOM. Saudi security forces have also been accused of shooting at least one protester of the development to death. The country has also failed to impose effective labor reforms which have led to widespread abuse of migrant workers and so far the authorities have given no roadmap for tackling the issue. A flimsy human rights record has become a hot topic and will create hurdles in raising the funds for the trillion-dollar megaproject.

the funds for the trillion-dollar megaproject.

The planners had hoped to attract foreign investors but the country remains largely boycotted by the Western world and economic partnerships are met with resistance. Even if they do get the funds, some of the plans for NEOM and the Mirror Line are just too complicated to turn into reality. Most commentators believe that the completed designs will look very different from those being advertised on Media Platforms. Based on what we have seen so far, Saudi Arabia does not possess the kind of expertise to turn most of its recent claims into reality. Even with foreign help, the magnitude of the Mirror Line project is too big to complete in the next few decades. As for the Mirror Line, another important question to be asked is whether people would actually want to live in such a place. For now, we see the Mirror Line as a concept idea for different ways of living. But realistically the project is massively overscaled and faces many problems such as the mentioned human right abuses and the feasibility. It remains an impossible feat for now and a more realistic approach would be to integrate some of these futuristic plans into Saudi Arabia’s already existing cities. But what do you think about the Mirror Line?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *