Saudi Arabia is starting an ambitious plan to build the world’s largest structure in the northwest part of the kingdom — two mirrored buildings 500 meters tall and 75 miles wide. The project was disclosed by the Wall Street Journal newspaper after accessing hundreds of pages of confidential documents that revealed the layout of the plan. The building will essentially be a mega city in and of itself.
If it really gets constructed, the “Mirror Line” will become the world’s tallest building, a record now held by the Burj Khalifa building in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which opened to the public in 2010 at a cost of $1.5 billion. But the new building will dwarf the Burj Khalifa in several ways.
It will be made of mirrored glass and part of a desert city called the Neom that will be about the size of Massachusetts. Prince Mohammed bin Salman plans the Neom to be a zero-carbon city, with the skyscraper becoming its epicenter. When announcing the Neom in 2021, Prince Muhammed described the project as a “civilizational revolution that puts humans first” and said he wanted the Mirror Line to be ready by 2030 and powered by renewables.
The details of the project
The skyscraper will consist of two 500 meters (1,600 feet) tall buildings that run parallel to each other across 75 miles of desert, mountain and coastal landscapes. The buildings will be connected with a high-speed train running below the building, as well as walkways. There will also be a marina for boats and vertical farms integrated into the walls.
But that’s not all. Other amenities would include a sports stadium that will stretch 1,000 feet in the sky and a subscription for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The government said the buildings will be carbon neutral and sustainable for the environment. However, the details are yet to be seen, and especially considering the massive scale of the construction, it seems quite questionable how exactly the building will be carbon neutral.
In fact, the building could be a sustainability mess. Environmental planners told The Wall Street Journal that the building will likely restrict the movement of birds and other animals, especially considering its mirrored glazing, as well as disrupt the dynamics of groundwater flow. They also raised doubts about whether people would like to live in a high-rise environment after the pandemic.
The building was designed by US-based Morphosis Architects and involves at least nine design and engineering consultants. However, its construction has so far proven tricky due to limited foreign interest and cash. Many Western countries and companies have boycotted Saudi Arabia and Prince Mohammed over alleged human rights violations.
During the last oil boom, Saudi Arabia planned to build the world’s tallest skyscraper but put it on hold. Plans for Neom, the city that will include the buildings, have already changed repeatedly, with many foreign employees leaving their posts due to the management culture and frustration at the pace of development.
In definition, skyscrapers are buildings that are as high as 100 meters (330 feet). Humanity has built 22,791 skyscrapers, with China in first place with 2,960 buildings higher than 150 meters and 964 over 200 meters. The US comes second with 857 buildings over 150 meters and 232 over 200 meters.