Sunday, April 21, 2024

The line has been erased

Remember The Line? That major humongous project of 170 kms in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert? The one that flooded us with sci-fi imagery, a full city encased in reflective walls, where humans would not need cars because their needs would be met in a 5-minute walk? And a high-speed rail system would tie it from one end to the other? The one where all energy was renewable? The one that was 500 meters in height but only a width of 200? Yes, all that. Well, it seems that the project has been drastically scaled back. Scaled back to the tune of 2.4 kms by the end 2030, it would end up housing 300,000 people apparently instead of the promised 1.5 million by that time.

You can read what went wrong here. It follows the many projects which touted cities as lines, yes - the concept existed prior and no, it did not work out. You might enjoy this article in The Guardian (here) about the many predecessors to The Line and how they all ended up flat on their belly - no pun, because that's exactly what The Line is or to quote Edgar Chambless who himself dreamed of a linear city "the idea occurred to me to lay the modern skyscraper on its side".

Well, the positive in all this is that the "death trap" the city was to migrant birds is no more - not to mention the Howeitat tribe which will no longer be displaced from their lands (even if some of its members are already in jail for daring to disagree with the project). 

Still, when an architectural project hires people specialized in gaming imagery to release its concept, it does tell you how divorced it was from reality. Also, apparently the mastermind behind the project - Mohammed Bin Salman, the crown prince himself - kept changing his idea about the project which led to a rotating masthead all over the place.

So voila, seems the utopia was just that. And castles were built, not in Spain, but in the desert.