Macro Fetish

On the avant-garde roots of Saudi Arabia’s improbable linear city

Revivalism produces strange bedfellows. Or maybe it’s better to say, with apologies to Marx, that utopian architecture, as distinct from other varieties, happens twice: the first time as critique, second as control.

Consider Saudi Arabia’s plan to build a linear city for nine million people, known as the Line, in the remote desert in the country’s northwestern corner, territory lying across the Gulf of Aqaba from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and opening to the south, along a broad crescent of coastline, onto the Red Sea. Part of a larger collection of planned Saudi cities called Neom, the Line takes the form of a single horizontal building, 1,600 feet tall and wrapped in mirrored glass, designed to stretch 105 miles along a precise east-west axis from the mountains to the waterfront. Entirely free of roads and cars, this self-contained interior world, reflecting a broader Saudi Arabian effort to diversify its economy beyond oil, is expected to be connected horizontally by rail, including high-speed lines, and vertically by stairs and elevators. Its claims to carbon-c…

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