No, MBS, it’s not the Pyramids

Proposed Saudi megaproject of two parallel buildings 1,600 feet tall extending 75 miles. (Daily Mail)

Mohammed bin Salman, son of Saudi Arabia’s king and the nation’s de facto ruler, has declared that the kingdom will construct two buildings taller than the Empire State Building in a straight parallel line extending 75 miles from the Gulf of Aqaba into the mountainous desert, called the Mirror Line.

The elongated pair of structures will be encased in reflective glass, housing up to five million people, costing a trillion dollars, atop a high-speed rail, with a soccer stadium 1,000 feet up bridging the two buildings, with struts to accommodate the curvature of the Earth, all powered by green energy. This pair of buildings – extending from a new, modernist city the size of Massachusetts called Neom – will be “my Pyramids,” says MBS, who wants them done by 2030.

Engineers beg to differ: it might take fifty years. In short, it might not be built.

The design team for the Mirror Line is led by nutcase American architect Thom Mayne, of the firm Morphosis, which means it should not be built.

Notwithstanding the pampered photos included here, the project imagined by the prince seems more dystopian than utopian. Perhaps this is not out of line with the Pyramids themselves, built by slaves as tombs for their masters the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. High-tech digital spying on Saudi residents and workers is planned, as already exists to monitor people in China. Indigenous Arabian desert communities have already been uprooted, and dissidents who sneer at the intentions of MBS have been arrested – some, it is said, executed.

How did the Saudi petro-visionary gather his breathtaking arrogance? Well, why should he value his authority beneath Khufu, who built Giza! Perhaps the bluster of MBS arises in part from having successfully executed an intelligence agent posing as a journalist – something no American president has surely ever done! – and getting away with it, thumbing his nose at tsk-tsking hypocrites around the world.

Who knows how he managed to conceive such a gargantuan stupidity? Maybe Thom Mayne had something to do with it. He is a specialist and winner of the Pritzker Prize. Nothing like the Mirror Line has ever been built in the world – and with good reason!

Broader view of Saudi megaproject extending straight and parallel into desert. (Daily Mail)

Imagined linear city as idyll amid glass cliffs and vegetation soaring up 1,600 feet. (Daily Mail)

Swimming with the fishes as Mirror Line meets the Gulf of Aqaba. (Daily Mail)

Stark, even terrorizing architecture seems to rebut image of Mirror Line utopia. (Daily Mail)

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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6 Responses to No, MBS, it’s not the Pyramids

  1. Lewis Dana says:

    I seem to remember something about a mirrored building in London that was setting parked cars on fire… In the desert, standing anywhere near the reflecting side of a 1600-foot tall mirror would, one suggests be as dangerous to your health as saying something bad about MBS.


  2. LazyReader says:

    Dubai built 70 highrises last decade more than 500 feet tall ALL with glass facades. lined up it would be 2 miles long…. So why is it so hard to believe something like this couldnt be built?
    In 2020 the production volume of glass bottles and containers amounted to nearly 690 billion units worldwide, 150 Million Tonnes…


  3. LazyReader says:

    Pyramids were not built by slaves. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus once described the pyramid builders as slaves, creating what Egyptologists say is a myth propagated by Hollywood films. Herodotus also talked about the Hanging gardens of Babylon…unlike the other 7 wonders…never found.
    1) Concept of Hebrews building pyramids…not withstanding doesnt hold up. Namely the term Hebrew doesnt mean jew…but in those days Those whom spoke hebrew language…whichnwas fairly common tongue.
    2) Graves of the builders were first found nearby in 1990 by a tourist. Egypt’s chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, said the finds show the workers were paid labourers, rather than slaves.
    3) Even if slaves did do it….No Jews built the pyramids because Jews didn’t exist at the period when the pyramids were being built.

    These workers Graves were first found nearby in 1990 by a tourist. Egypt’s chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, finds show the workers were paid labourers, rather than slaves. the builders came from poor families from the north and the south, and were respected for their work – so much so that those who died during construction were bestowed the honour of being buried in the tombs near the sacred pyramids of their pharaoh. You don’t hold high regard for disposeable people.
    This is just like the marvel movie….Spiderman no way home where MJ whines of Washington monument built by slaves…(which it wasnt) it was built by masons.

    Slaves have minimal skillsets….which is why they were used heavy labor largely and imported from seasonal agricultural fields when crops were not being harvested. Slavery is inefficient….even without machines or steam power. coordinated efforts are practical. Which is why I explained before….. how easily the Pyramids were built without a 50,000 man team. The only advantage that modern diesel/electric powered cranes have brought us, is a higher lifting speeds, not improved energy efficiency. Just before advent of steam power taking over, human powered lifting devices became so elaborate that one man could lift several tonnes in no time, using only one hand. As long as mechanical advantage is adhered, lifting things becomes easier, even with a mechanical advantage of 2 to 1, you cut workforce in half…Mechanical advantage of 6 to 1 cuts daily workforce 80%.
    back to Matter at hand It’ll never be built because whose gonna build and fabricate and CLEAN 100 miles of 600 meter high glass. 100 miles long….. no roads or cars. So in an emergency no evacuation plan. On September 11, 2001, terrorists smashed two airplanes into the World Trade Center towers, each of which were about 3.5 million square feet and covered 2 acres, and a third plane into the Pentagon, which was and is about 6.6 million square feet covering 34 acres. The attacks totally demolished the towers, killing 2,606 people, while the crash into the Pentagon damaged only about 5 to 10 percent of the building, killing 184 people. Both buildings could hold 50,000 people…but only one the Pentagon a mere 5 story building was easier to evacuate

    This projects long geography means any events will result in bottlenecks….Before Hurricane Katrina, about 100,000 residents of New Orleans lived in households without cars. This was about 27% of the city’s population. When levees failed in the wake of the storm, people with cars were able to escape, while those without cars were left behind. Some 1,200 people died. In, Saudi Arabia severe weather is not really an issue, floods, typhoons, hurricanes. Middle east where terrorism and suicide bombings are common a dense city crowd…is a big no no. Worse ,civil unrest ir a war this city is impossible to evacuate. A city you cannot evacuate is a target. Also how are people to go to work, shop, buy bulk items that weigh more than 20 lbs if streets or road conveyance does not exist.

    Can there be any doubt that one of the reasons why the U.S.S.R. favored high-density apartment buildings for everyone in the Ideal Communist City is that it would be easier to bomb them if ever anyone tried to revolt? And one of the reasons why the communists favored mass transit over private automobiles is that it would be more difficult for people to escape such attacks? Or why China builds amazingly detailed and fanciful public infrastructure is to spy on the public.

    Whose gonna take care of this jungle of plants…an army of gardeners? Better suburban and mild density urban dwellings with property rights whom better take care of the properties. Density is a loveable pet subject of environmentalists, who argue that densely populated cities are the solution to lower the energy requirements for transportation. This means that it would probably be wise to aim for a compromise. If we would take the highest densities reached under the solar envelope as an upper limit, we could create cities where the critical functions of buildings can be met with minimized fossil fuel use, maximum solar use. Infrastructure avenues can be built… where pipes,cables, etc all adjacent with minimal modification. These infrastructure lanes can never be built on. while still retaining (more than) high enough densities to make public transportation, bicycling and walking attractive. And its not like we have a shortage of building material….

    As for water…
    I’ma say this again. Pair nuclear reactors with desalination plants. Run the desal plant at 50% capacity. Increase/decrease the amount of water pumped to match total nuclear generation to consumption. Pipe the water to where it’s needed, sell it. Load-following nukes! will produce water as waste byproduct. The current power consumption for seawater desalination is less than 3 kWh/m3, which is a 90% reduction. So at night half a billion gallons a day would be produced…..
    And pumped to storage, refill lakes, replenish historic oasis and underground springs.


  4. Alexander Bars says:

    I’ll take some shit that will never get built for $5.00 dollars, thanks. Stick it in my shopping cart alongside that “hyperloop” that Elon Musk was going to build.


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