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Norman Foster Pulls Out of Saudi ‘Mega-City’ Project Over Murdered Journalist

Along with other prominent figures, the British architect has stepped down from Neom’s advisory board following Jamal Khashoggi’s death

Norman Foster. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Norman Foster. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Norman Foster. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The British architect Norman Foster has withdrawn from the advisory board of USD$500 billion Saudi Arabian ‘mega-city’ project Neom. The Saudi government has now admitted that the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi Arabian embassy in Istanbul, after days of speculation and an unfolding diplomatic crisis. Saudi Arabia has blamed the killing on a ‘rogue operation’ – Turkish authorities have said that Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi operatives in the building.

A spokesperson for Foster confirmed that he had stepped down from the Neom project, which aims to build a fully-automated city in the Saudi Arabian desert, as part of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan to invest in renewables: ‘Last week Lord Foster wrote to the head of the Neom advisory board stating that whilst the situation remains unclear he has suspended his activities in respect of the board.’

The Neom global advisory board also listed Apple’s chief design officer Jonathan Ive, Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff and Carlo Ratti of MIT’s Senseable Cities Lab – Apple later claimed that Ive’s listing was incorrect, and Doctoroff also said that he had been mistakenly included. A spokesperson for Carlo Ratti said that he was monitoring the case.

Several arts institutions have been forced into reconsidering their Saudi funding, in light of Khashoggi’s death. Last week, the Brooklyn Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced that they were suspending Saudi sponsorship – and Columbia University cancelled a talk by Ahmed Mater, the Saudi artist and leader of the Misk Art Institute (a project supported by the Saudi crown prince.

Don’t miss Rahel Aima writing for frieze.com in May on the Saudi soft power push, and the extent to which crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s cultural projects resembled window dressing: ‘the millennial prince wants to modernize Saudi Arabia and the media can’t get enough.’

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