Saudi Arabia plans $ 500 billion for world’s largest building

Saudi Arabia plans $ 500 billion for world's largest building

Nadmi Al-Nasser, CEO of NEOM. (File)

According to people familiar with the matter, Saudi Arabia is planning the world’s largest buildings in the most uninhabited part of the country as part of a brand new $ 500 billion development called NEOM.

NEOM, the intellectual of Saudi Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman, aims to build two skyscrapers about 500 meters (1,640 feet) tall that extend horizontally for dozens of miles, people said.

Skyscrapers will create a mix of residential, retail and office space running across the desert from the shores of the Red Sea, people said, requesting that the information not be identified as private. The plan changes from a concept announced last year to a string of developments connected by underground hyper-speed rail to a long uninterrupted structure, people say.

Designers were instructed to work on the half-mile-long prototype, current and former NEOM staff said. If it goes ahead completely, each structure will be larger than the current largest buildings in the world, most of which are factories or malls rather than residential communities.

Announced in 2017, NEOM is Prince Mohammed’s plan to transform a remote part of the country into a high-tech semi-autonomous state that re-imagines urban life. It is part of a plan to attract foreign investment and help diversify the Saudi economy away from dependence on oil sales. The Line, known as the car-free linear city that will form the backbone of NEOM, could cost up to $ 200 billion to build, Prince said last year, even before it changed plans to include huge horizontal buildings.

“The line is an out-of-the-box concept,” Nadimi al-Nasser, chief executive of NEOM, said in an interview, declining to comment on specific aspects of the plan. “When we are ready, what we present will be very well received, and will be seen as revolutionary.”

According to current and former employees of the Saudi project, to plan The Line, NEOM worked with a California-based architecture firm called Morphosis. Morphosis – founded by Thom Maine, once called the “bad boy” of American architecture – did not respond to a request for comment.

Buildings that adapt to the landscape will be “at different heights as you go,” their final size will be determined by engineering considerations and terrain, al-Nasser said.

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is already the tallest building in the world in the Middle East. Long before the rise of Prince Mohammed, Saudi Crown Prince Alwaleed bin Talal announced plans to build the world’s tallest building near Jeddah. The skyscraper is only partially completed.

Some of Saudi Arabia’s financial losses due to the high price of oil could lead to the construction of the Neom. One of the beneficiaries of the surplus fund could be a powerful public investment fund, owned by Prince Mohammed and owned by NEOM, government officials said.

Yet funding has not yet been NEOM’s challenge. Instead, questions have been raised about the feasibility of the project after several other giant developments failed in the past to strengthen economic diversification. The PIF, known as the Resources Fund, is trying to turn North Riyadh into a largely defunct office cluster that cost billions to build and was turned into a financial center under the previous ruler.

In the hope of avoiding similar consequences, The Line will be built in phases based on demand, said people involved in the project.

“When people talk about The Line, they see a future hyperloop, Star Wars-like entity,” said Ali Shihabi, a member of Neom’s advisory board. “But when the line was presented to the board, I saw a highly intelligent, well-thought-out sustainable modern city that would accommodate workers to billionaires and build it in phases, so it would follow demand.”

(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)

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