Magna: Saudi Arabia’s City of Tomorrow

Magna: Saudi Arabia’s City of Tomorrow

In the mid-2000s, the Government of Saudi Arabia announced a new program to develop six “economic” cities to meet the Kingdom’s growing aspirations for industrial diversification and quantum leaps in the quality of life for its citizens. A private investor retained the principals of Rubin Mallows Worldwide to develop a master plan for the sixth city, Magna, as a unique location to nurture the human element within Saudi society, in contrast to other cities that focused principally on industrial production or logistics.

To create Magna, we addressed two core questions:

  • How can a new city in a remote location known only by few and then, only for its physical beauty, attract Arab and non-Arab residents and visitors alike?
  • How can such a place retain and support a population of a million or more over a 20-year period?

We drew on our urban value chain proposition for the solution, building a strategy based on the integration of economic, financial, institutional, and spatial elements, and visualizing resident profiles that would embrace a cycle of learning leading to knowledge creation, which is converted to intellectual property and commercialized over a generation. With the new resident generation entering the economy through education, the cycle repeats itself, more or less indefinitely. As a result, Magna is designed to provide the opportunity and environment to attract and motivate Saudis as well as expatriates from around the world in a relaxed, safe, efficient, and beautiful environment that has been preserved for all to enjoy. At the same time, Magna’s service- and knowledge-based economy is planned using a socioeconomic value chain, which provides all of its residents with broad opportunities to learn, innovate, create wealth, and share the benefits of these opportunities globally.

At Magna’s heart are seven economic pillars that create a unique Saudi urban offering: education, health, professional services, energy and environment, tourism, media and communications, and advanced technology. Supporting these sectors are technologically advanced transport; smart, efficient, and renewable energy; extensive digital infrastructure; housing for all income groups; and the full range of public and neighborhood services that are essential for sustainable communities.

The city is master planned to integrate Magna’s seven economic pillars into its landscape, with each pillar occupying its own location, but never far from the city’s urban core and transportation spine linking harbors to the south and north. A network of canals provides an additional water focus to Magna’s neighborhoods and commercial centers as well as a scenic backdrop for shopping, strolling, and boating.

Energy, water and transportation systems incorporate the latest in technology including wind, solar, and hydrogen fuels plus membrane filtration for water and 100% wastewater reuse for landscape irrigation. In all ways, Magna’s plans call for pushing the sustainability envelope toward carbon neutrality.

Magna is designed to attract some $100 billion over 30 years to finance 1,700 businesses, infrastructure, and housing for some 700,000 to 1 million people. According to our models, these investments will deliver roughly 40,000 jobs and $60 billion a year in goods and services to the Saudi economy, adding more than 4% to the Kingdom’s underlying GDP.