Can you imagine a city without streets or cars circulating?

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NEOM, the most ambitious and futuristic giga project in history

The Vision 2030 structural plan, led by Prince Mohammed bin Salmán, seeks to achieve economic independence in the oil sector in which Saudi Arabia is immersed through a series of reforms.

This strategic plan includes NEOM, the futuristic city of 500,000 million dollars that is being built in Saudi Arabia. Although often called a smart city, NEOM is more accurately described as a region that will contain numerous cities, resorts, and other developments. It is such a huge initiative that the term to define it would be giga project. And it aims to attract the best talent from around the world to turn the giga project into a reality.

With the use of technology, and sustainable energy, coupled with its important strategic position, the project becomes a desire to diversify the entry of foreign economic capital, beginning with neoliberal reforms that seek to generate profits among the Saudi elite. Immersed within the so-called green capitalism and with a budget of more than $500 billion, Vision 2030 and, specifically, the NEOM Project seek to build a space that implies a better social, ecological, and economic lifestyle. In this sense, a new model of urban sustainability, environmental protection, and the effective and productive use of technology are the cornerstones of the development of this project.

NEOM counts on top global consultancies Atkins, US-based engineering group Jacobs, and Jasara Project Management Company as partners on its most ambitious project, The Line. Atkins is one of the world’s leading design, engineering, and project management consultancies, while Jasara is a joint venture between Saudi oil giant Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, PIF, and Jacobs.

According to the designers, The Line will be built around nature rather than on top of it, surrounded by large protected areas, as 95% of the surrounding NEOM region will be protected for conservation.

The Line will be a 170-kilometre linear city that will house nine million people. It will stretch from east to west across the NEOM region. According to the developer, the city will consist of two 500-meter-high parallel linear skyscrapers 200 meters apart. The facades of the buildings will be lined with mirrors producing the striking picture in the middle of the desert that they are publishing in the media.

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2% land footprint of a traditional city

30% less infrastructure cost

5 min walk to public amenities

The images showing the earthworks already taking place on the site compete with the futuristic spectacularity of the finished project. The Line is shown as a city that has nothing to do with the urban planning lived, obviously because it was born on the sand, without any heritage or historical trace. Tarek Qaddumi, executive director of NEOM, comments in one of his posts on social media: “2% land footprint of a traditional city. 30% less infrastructure cost, and 5 min walk to public amenities”

A city without streets, cars, or traffic jams that will have fully sustainable high-speed roads in such a way that no transfer along its 170 km long lasts more than 20 minutes.

Talent attraction

Recruiters are looking for candidates to work in a variety of different sectors in large-scale construction in the NEOM regions, including The Line and Oxagon, the newly built port city on the Red Sea.

Multiple sectors are hiring in the fields of industrialization and innovation, corporate development, health and safety, finance, sports, strategic planning and technology, marine conservation, government engagement, and government services and operations. This megaproject is already attracting talent from all over the globe, and networks like LinkedIn already have more than 20 companies with more than 400 vacancies.

The spectacularity of the works and how it will revolutionize the region and its future impact offers enormous opportunities in different sectors and industries in a futuristic and innovative environment. NEOM is assuming the largest giga project in attracting talent worldwide. Technicians from all areas, going through Architects, Engineers, and even workers, and workers are being attracted by the opportunities offered by this initiative for the future. All this is generating a process of unstoppable social and economic opening in the area.

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A controversial giga project

The announcement of the NEOM project was received in many different ways. The majority of the Saudi population believes that the smart city will be a source of pride for the nationals, improving the image of the Kingdom around the world, in addition to being expected to open doors for new job opportunities. Thus, with an unemployment rate of 5.8%, its almost blind acceptance positions NEOM as one of the most supported alternatives at the local level.

However, local communities have shown concern for their land since the announcement of the project. The news related to the process of eviction of the tribes that occupy the region, and the protesters against the project, has put the leaders of Saudi Arabia in the focus of criticism from pro-human rights institutions. This shows that the construction of said idea, despite the discourse of improvement for the region and the country, directly affects the living conditions of the surrounding populations. From this point of view, the role of the government would be to prioritize its national and international projection.

Another controversial aspect is the idea of ​​sustainability with which the giga project is promoted. The developers of NEOM have emphasized sustainability, with the aim that 100% renewable sources power the development.

However, the environmental impact of NEOM, like other large infrastructure and architecture projects, has to do with analyzing the environmental impact throughout the infrastructure’s entire life cycle, including the necessary materials, its construction, and its use and maintenance. And the carbon footprint embodied in the construction of The Line is expected to be so staggering that it may overwhelm any environmental benefits.

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Final thoughts

Tarek Qaddumi says they are developing The Line as a unique opportunity to set a new benchmark combining prosperity, livability, and environmental preservation.

For the Saudi authorities, it represents the commitment to environmental leadership worldwide. The commitment to a change in the energy and economic model around the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.

History will confirm if this transformation also provokes a deeper revolution of social transformation driven by the necessary openness to capital and talent from all over the world necessary to build the most ambitious gig project in history.


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