"It's battling against the entire history of the way cities are founded and grow."

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The future of Neom, Saudi Arabia's enormous city building project, is looking shaky as costs soar and sloppy construction setbacks mount, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Constructing its centerpiece, "the Line," was never going to be easy. The uber-ambitious pair of skyscrapers is supposed to be taller than the Empire State Building and span 105 miles of desert, its western end terminating on the coast of the Red Sea.

That staggering scale comes with staggering costs. Officially, Neom was budgeted at $500 billion, which is more than 50 percent of Saudi Arabia's federal budget, the WSJ notes.

But those projections may have been too optimistic. According to employees working on the project and people familiar with the plans that spoke to the paper, just the first 1.5 miles of the Line will cost more than $100 billion, with the entire project expected to easily clear $2 trillion — more than the GDP of Brazil.

"It's battling against the entire history of the way cities are founded and grow," John E. Fernandez, professor in the department of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the WSJ.


Under the driving vision of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Line will be 1,640 feet tall at its highest points. Spread across a hundred miles, that verticality will allow for more than seven billion square feet of floor space, according to the WSJ, which is 29 percent larger than all the buildings in New York City.

So far, construction has been disjointed and haphazard. The Line's foundations were being built years before architects had finished designing the above-ground structure in order to show progress to the crown prince, according to the newspaper. When the architects decided on another site, the initial foundations were abandoned.

That kind of slipshod planning continues to haunt Neom. The first 10 miles of the skyscraper was initially set to be completed by 2030. It's now been cut down to a mere 1.5 miles, with ambitions of housing millions of residents in its first phase also dropping to less than 200,000.

Meanwhile, Neom is spending some $5 billion just to build the housing for its construction workers, with an additional 100,000 workers set to join their ranks. But not even these were designed with much foresight, it seems. A community that's home to Neom's engineers and administrative workers already needs to be demolished, according to the WSJ, after yet more revisions to the Line's design now means that the skyscraper will run right through its location.

Elsewhere along the Line, workers are currently digging an enormous 450 acre pit that's 50 feet below sea level for the construction of a marina. In a comical turn of events, according to the WSJ, the veritable mountain of all the dirt they excavated was dumped right on top of where a waterway is supposed to be built. Work followed to painstakingly re-excavate the huge dirt pile and move it somewhere else —  a literal example of the project designers digging themselves into a hole.

More on skyscrapers: Huge Pendulum in Skyscraper Protected It When Epic Earthquake Struck

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