Saudi crown prince unveils design for NEOM’s . . .

Saudi crown prince unveils design for NEOM’s . . .

Saudi crown prince unveils design for NEOM’s . . .

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and chairman of the NEOM board of directors Mohammed bin Salman has announced the designs of ‘The Line’, a 170 kilometres long smart linear city.

According to the crown prince, the designs of The Line will embody how urban communities will be in the future in an environment free from roads, cars and emissions. The city will run on 100 percent renewable energy and will prioritise people’s health and well-being over transportation and infrastructure as in traditional cities. It will also put nature ahead of development and will contribute to preserving 95 percent of NEOM’s land.

Last year, the crown prince launched the initial idea and vision of the city that redefines the concept of urban development and what cities of the future should look like.

“We cannot ignore the livability and environmental crises facing our world’s cities, and NEOM is at the forefront of delivering new and imaginative solutions to address these issues. NEOM is leading a team of the brightest minds in architecture, engineering and construction to make the idea of building upwards a reality,” said the crown prince.

Saudi crown prince unveils design for NEOM’s . . .

He added, “NEOM will be a place for all people from across the globe to make their mark on the world in creative and innovative ways. NEOM remains one of the most important projects of Saudi Vision 2030, and our commitment to delivering The Line on behalf of the nation remains resolute.”

The city’s design will be completely digitised, and the construction industrialised to a large degree by significantly advancing construction technologies and manufacturing processes.

The Line, which is only 200 metres wide, 170 kilometres long and 500 metres above sea level, will eventually accommodate 9 million residents and will be built on a footprint of 34 square kilometres, reducing the infrastructure footprint of the city.

Further into The Line’s design, NEOM revealed that the city will be designed with the concept referred to as Zero Gravity Urbanism in mind. The idea of layering city functions vertically while giving people the possibility of moving seamlessly in three dimensions (up, down or across) to access them. Unlike cities with just tall buildings, this concept layers public parks and pedestrian areas, schools, homes and places for work, so that one can move effortlessly to reach all daily needs within five minutes.

The Line will also have an outer mirror façade, allowing it to blend with nature, while the interior will be built to create extraordinary experiences for people living within the city.

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Read the latest here: ‘Revolution in civilisation’: Saudi Arabia previews 170km mirrored skyscraper offering ‘autonomous’ services

.The featured image above is credit to Rojgar Samachar


Wealthy sheikhs behind Smart City leave trail of failed projects

Wealthy sheikhs behind Smart City leave trail of failed projects

Wealthy sheikhs behind Smart City leave trail of failed projects

By Wealthy sheikhs behind Smart City leave trail of failed projects Julian Delia


Smart City Malta isn’t the only project masterminded by Dubai Holding, a subsidiary company of the UAE crown’s real estate arm, that has departed from its original terms, according to research conducted by The Shift following the Maltese government’s recent decision to change the parameters of the deal.

Similar projects in India and Morocco have also suffered the same fate – incomplete, then turned into residential projects yielding more personal profits instead of the investment in the economy and the creation of jobs promised.

The three Emirati nationals on Smart City (Malta) Ltd’s board of directors are Khalid al Malik, Jassim al Abdool, and Majed Mohammed Khamis Sabt Al Suwaidi. Dubai Holding’s subsidiary company, SmartCity Dubai FZ-LLC, owns a majority of the shares of SmartCity (Malta) Ltd.

The new terms of the deal for Smart City Malta ratified by the Labour government mean the three wealthy businessmen have been granted a much freer rein over what happens with the massive tract of land they purchased in Kalkara in 2007.

Al Malik is listed as the managing director of Dubai Holding, while Abdool is the executive director of Dubai Holding Real Estate.

Al Suwaidi is the managing director of three subsidiary companies under the umbrella of TECOM Group. TECOM Group also forms part of Dubai Holding’s portfolio of companies.

The Smart City project in Malta amounts to almost a fifth (17.55%) of Kalkara’s entire surface area – 316,000sqm from a total of 1,800,000sqm of land.

In 2007, the Maltese government first signed the deal which was supposed to lead to the creation of an ICT city, a project backed by a €300 million investment that was supposed to create 5,600 jobs, which never materialised.

From Kalkara to Kakkanad

That same year, Dubai Holding announced an almost identical Smart City pitch for an area in India known as Kakkanad.

Smart City Kochi, as the project is known, bears striking similarities with the one in Malta, albeit on a larger scale – in 10 years, the project was supposed to convert over 800,000sqm of land into an ICT city, creating 90,000 jobs in the process.

Like Smart City Malta, Smart City Kochi also lists Malik and Abdool as directors.

In 2020, the New Indian Express published an article describing how a state government representative sitting on Smart City Kochi’s board had allegedly attempted to sell off over 120,000sqm of land meant for IT development as residential real estate instead.

The attempt to sell off this land mirrors what happened in Malta with the Shoreline residential development – even though the original agreement stipulated specific parameters for ICT-related development.

Two years later, the same news portal published another article comparing Smart City Kochi with an IT hub located across the street known as Infopark, with the portal describing the promised Smart City hub as a project that “failed to live up to all the initial hype even 11 years after its launch”.

An analysis of the concept art originally showcased for Smart City Kochi compared to satellite imagery of the area on Google Maps shows that while some of the proposed projects are under construction, ten years later, the project is far from what was advertised as the end stage of the project.

Wealthy sheikhs behind Smart City leave trail of failed projects

The conceptualisation of the Smart City Kochi project.


Wealthy sheikhs behind Smart City leave trail of failed projects

A Google maps view of the region in which the Kochi project was supposed to be built (the box in red marks the location of Infopark).

The Rabat-Salé connection

Al Malik’s biography on Dubai Holding’s website states that the managing director “is also responsible for the company’s international real estate investments in places such as Malta, Kochi and Morocco as well as managing its strategic relations with local and international investors, and its government affairs”.

The Shift’s research indicates that Dubai Holding had, in 2005, announced a $2 billion project in an area known as Bouregreg, nestled between the cities of Rabat and Salé in Morocco.

Similar to the project in Kakkanad and Kalkara, the ambitious plans announced initially by the then-king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, do not match what is seen in Bouregreg today.

Wealthy sheikhs behind Smart City leave trail of failed projects

A conceptualisation of the urban development between Rabat and Salé.


Wealthy sheikhs behind Smart City leave trail of failed projects

A Google maps screenshot showing the same area between Rabat and Salé as it currently stands.

The project was originally supposed to convert a massive 40 million sqm area into an entirely new urban district featuring 2,000 apartments, 300 retail outlets and adjacent malls, parks and theatres.

The only visible structure in the area is the Grand Théâtre de Rabat, the construction of which was completed last year, two years past its deadline.



How urban design can make people less likely to use public spaces

How urban design can make people less likely to use public spaces

Jose Antonio Lara-Hernandez, University of Portsmouth elaborates on how urban design can make people less likely to use public spaces.  Here are his thoughts.

The above-featured image is of Semantic Scholar

Cities: how urban design can make people less likely to use public spaces

We only feel free to use spaces that we can identify with.
Vagengeim | Shutterstock


Urban beautification campaigns are usually sold to local residents as a way to improve their daily lives. Design elements – from lighting systems to signs, benches, bollards, fountains and planters, and sometimes even surveillance equipment – are used to refurbish and embellish public spaces.

Designers refer to these elements as “urban furniture”. And the projects they’re used in are usually aimed at increasing social interaction, heightening safety, improving accessibility and generally making life in the city better.

Some research argues, however, that such beautification campaigns can result in public urban spaces becoming more exclusive. Despite the promises with which they are marketed, if these projects disregard what local people need, they can feel less able, or willing, to make use of these spaces.

An urban canal pathway seen at sunset.
Cheonggyecheon canal, in Seoul, South Korea.
PixHound | Shutterstock

Cities aren’t only identified by their monuments or signature buildings. You can tell New York City and Palermo apart just by looking at what people are doing in public. A New York scene is more likely to feature someone on a skateboard eating a burrito, while a Palermo image might include a group of men in a street watching a football match on television through a shop window.

Urban space is where city children learn and play, students read and people work, walk and relax. It is through these different activities that any single city’s urban culture is created.

Quite what city spaces look like is down to urban design, a powerful tool.

Architects, infrastructural and spatial designers carefully configure the built environment – the constructed fabric of our cities – and this has a lasting effect on how we use or inhabit them.

In cities around the globe – from Algiers, Auckland and Chicago to Hanoi, Mexico City and Seoul – research shows that transforming public spaces markedly affects the diversity of what people do in them, and whether they use them.

In Algiers, the Algerian capital, neighbourhoods were formally designed in the 1970s in a rigid modernist style. Design elements including shady trees, benches and lights at night made people feel comfortable carrying out activities such as playing cards or gathering to chat, but huge buildings, wide streets and large spaces also caused people to feel insecure and lost.
Further, the land was landscaped in the kind of homogenous way characteristic of other big cities including Los Angeles, Auckland and Sydney. These large-scale and non-contextual designs have also been linked to antisocial behaviour.

Research conducted in the historic Alameda Central Park neighbourhood of Mexico City highlight similar patterns of exclusion caused by how a neighbourhood was redesigned.

After the area was transformed in 2013, there was a notable decline in the diversity of the activities people undertook there (family and religious gatherings; street art; music; informal vendors). Instead, the law now prioritises touristic activity over local people’s everyday needs and allows the authorities to operate a zero-tolerance approach towards anything deemed disruptive. Vendors have become nomadic, packing up and hiding as soon as the police are nearby.

In the Cheonggyecheon-Euljiro area of Seoul, South Korea, meanwhile, redevelopment led to 50-year-old workshops being torn down. This in turn has threatened the historical and cultural values of the local population and disrupted social networks.

How cities are co-created

In his 1968 book, The Right to the City, the French Marxist philosopher and sociologist Henri Lefebvre described the city as a co-created space. This contrasts with the more capitalist definition in which urban space is a commodity to be bought and sold, Lefebvre saw it as a meeting place where citizens collectively built urban life.

This idea that public space is a public good that belongs to everybody has been increasingly challenged in recent years, with the rise of privately owned public space. Most of the parks in London (roughly 42 kilometres squared) of green space in total) are owned by the City of London Corporation, the municipal body that governs the City of London, but increasingly squares within new developments are owned by corporations.

Urban theorists have long noted the connection between how a city is designed and how life is conducted within it. The US scholar Jane Jacobs is famous for highlighting that cities fail when they are not designed for everyone. And Danish architect Jan Gehl’s output has consistently focused on what he has termed the “life between buildings”.

As Gehl has explained, for a city to be good to its residents, those in charge of designing it have to be aware of how it is being used: what people are doing in its spaces. To be successful, urban designs have to be focused on and geared towards people’s daily lives. Gehl has explained that designing a city for pedestrians – at a walkable scale – is how you make it healthy, sustainable, lively and attractive.

When we use public spaces, even if only on a short-term basis, we are effectively appropriating them: urban designers and architects talk about “temporary appropriation” to describe the individual or group activities with which we invest these spaces.

Research has also highlighted how democratic this can be. But it is contingent on those spaces being designed in consort with residents. When a public space, by contrast, is overly designed without people’s needs being taken into account, it does not get used.

Since the 1970s, urban theorists have highlighted that we only make use of those public spaces where we feel represented. For urban design to work, paying heed to what local people actually think of their city is crucial.The Conversation

Jose Antonio Lara-Hernandez, Senior Researcher in Architecture, University of Portsmouth

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation


Why smarter surfaces, not air conditioning, is the answer

Why smarter surfaces, not air conditioning, is the answer

For much of the MENA region, “living” means putting up with the prevailing oppressive climate with air-conditioned (A/C) machinery.  The use of A/C, however, contributed and many including the United Nations warned of climate change-induced heat waves worsening the ambient air.   From the Mediterranean shores to Baghdad through to all GCC, the region is right now undergoing a maximum Degrees Centigrade.  All houses, offices and others are equipped with individual and/or collective cooling systems.   Global Construction Review article by Greg Kats, Ian Riley and Manon Burbidge on why smarter surfaces and no air conditioning are the answer for their scorching cities.  The above-featured image is credit to iStock.

Why smarter surfaces, not air conditioning, is the answer for our scorching cities


Why smarter surfaces, not air conditioning, is the answer Air conditioners in Kuala Lumpur. We need more reflective surfaces because air conditioners create a vicious energy consumption spiral, says the Smart Surfaces Coalition (Tinou Bao/CC BY 2.0)
Air conditioners in Kuala Lumpur. We need more reflective surfaces because air conditioners create a vicious energy consumption spiral, says the Smart Surfaces Coalition (Tinou Bao/CC BY 2.0)
Following another year of record-breaking temperatures, droughts and heatwaves across the world in 2021, it is time to look again at our options to manage summer heat, particularly in towns and cities, which suffer from the Urban Heat Island effect.

This occurs when darkly-paved roads, car parks and dark roofs absorb solar radiation and release it back as heat, instead of reflecting it back into the atmosphere, along with waste heat from buildings. It can lead to temperature differences between urban and rural areas of as much as 6-12ºC, particularly at night.

High summer temperatures are not only uncomfortable, but also lead to excess mortality, particularly among vulnerable groups, including the elderly, and those with disabilities and underlying health conditions.

Governments and people look to air conditioning to cool down but in the long-term, reliance on private AC for urban cooling would cost the planet dearly.

Owing to climate change-induced temperature increases, by 2050, the number of air conditioners globally is projected to grow from 1.6 billion to 5.6 billion. This would result in additional emissions, created by excess energy demand, that could add 0.5ºC of global warming, pushing the Paris Agreement target of 1.5ºC maximum beyond our reach.

Many air conditioners are cheap and inefficient window-mounted units. Studies of cities ranging from Phoenix to Tokyo show that large increases in these types of air conditioners can add as much as 1ºC to outdoor heat. This creates a feedback loop; if the outdoor temperature becomes hotter, air conditioners are needed for longer, thus increasing the outdoor temperature, and so on.

When air conditioners are stacked one above each other, floor after floor up the sides of buildings, they heat up the intake air of the AC units above, making them less efficient.

Worse, the AC units may not work when we need them most: electric grids are most likely to break down during peak use periods, and for most of the world this is determined by AC usage during the hottest days, when people are at greatest risk of heat-related deaths.

The strategy of indefinitely expanding air conditioning to cool buildings and people in warming cities will simply not work in the medium- and long-term.

So, what is the alternative to ever more air conditioners? One option is to cool the city and its neighbourhoods by altering the urban fabric itself.

“Smart surfaces” are defined by the Smart Surfaces Coalition (SSC) as any surface that better manages sunlight and rainfall than dark, impervious surfaces. They include reflective, porous and green surfaces that, if installed in combination with increasing tree and solar PV coverage in urban environments, can work to decrease the impact of heat in built-up areas.

Regular concrete has higher reflectivity than asphalt, shingles or slate, the most common roads and roofing surfaces. It can be increased by using lighter coloured materials in the concrete mix.

The material with the biggest impact is sand, which is much more visible in the surface of concrete than the typical aggregates used. In addition, urban vegetation, in the form of parks and green spaces, can, in combination with broad application of highly reflective surfaces, cool surrounding areas by as much as 5ºC.

The SSC’s coalition of leading health, planning, architecture, city policy, energy, affordable housing, energy and other organizations is dedicated to supporting expanded adoption of smart surfaces globally. Prior studies of potential city-wide smart surfaces adoption by Baltimore, El Paso, Philadelphia and Washington DC demonstrated smart surfaces to be a cost-effective, city-wide strategy to address climate change mitigation and adaptation that would also improve equity and create jobs.

The SSC’s study of Baltimore modelled 12 measures, ranging from planting more trees to making roof and car park surfaces porous and more reflective with lighter-coloured materials. This included the use of low and even negative carbon concretes, which are important shared objectives of the World Cement Association and the smart surfaces Coalition. According to this study, by 2050, adoption of a select set of smart surfaces could cool greater Baltimore by 1.7ºC and downtown Baltimore by 2.4ºC.

Additionally, the benefits to health, employment, tourism and lower energy bills are ten times larger than the costs: the net present value to Baltimore over 30 years could be as much as $20,000 per person.

The study also revealed that the greatest decreases in temperature could be achieved by putting smart surfaces in lower-income neighbourhoods, which are typically less green and built with more dark, impervious materials. Residents here are much more likely to live in inefficient buildings and disproportionately suffer from respiratory and other health problems.

While energy costs make up about 1% of total income for the highest-income renters in the USA, among the lowest-income renters, tenant-paid household energy costs are approximately 15% of income. This inequality has broad income, health, quality of life, and cost impacts. Smart surfaces, such as reflective roofs and trees, can cut these energy bills by up to a third.

It is clear that a cleaner and more effective solution than air conditioners is needed to ensure that our towns and cities remain habitable and safe in the face of global climate change. Implementing smart surfaces, in the form of urban greening and reflective surfaces can make a tangible difference to communities, particularly those who are already vulnerable to extreme heat.

  • Greg Kats is founder and CEO of the Smart Surfaces Coalition; Ian Riley is CEO of the World Cement Association; Manon Burbidge is policy and communications manager at the World Cement Association.
Bahrain deploys e-paper displays to increase sustainability

Bahrain deploys e-paper displays to increase sustainability

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