Trojena, Neom’s unique, futuristic ski destination, is currently making significant construction progress across all clusters and major assets to deliver the development to the 2026 construction completion target, Philip Gullett, Executive Director – Region Head, Trojena, tells Gulf Construction.
Construction is continuing at pace, and Neom is well on the way to creating The Lake – a magnificent 2.8-km-long man-made freshwater lake at the heart of Trojena – and the vertical village The Vault, he says.
The excavation of the Lake commenced in early 2022 and as of October 2023, approximately 3 million cu m of material has been excavated and reused for the lake liner and dams.
“Delivering a project of the scale and ambition of Trojena is no small feat. Neom is one of the world’s largest projects of this kind and, given our commitment to technological advancement and sustainability, we are attracting some of the world’s leaders in construction and design to work at the cutting edge of sustainable development with new techniques and new skills,” Gullett states.
Gullett: There is no doubt it is challenging to build in this environment.
Design, fabrication, delivery, and installation require detailed coordination between globally-renowned architects, engineers, contractors and numerous subject matter experts. Across the development and construction of Neom, the team is leveraging advanced technologies like digital twins, artificial intelligence, robotics, and modular construction techniques.
With Trojena aiming to offer a diverse skiing experience throughout the year, Neom will produce man-made snow to accommodate its 36 km of ski slopes and is currently running regular tests on the artificial snow to supplement the natural fall in winter. During the other months, skiing enthusiasts will be able to ski on synthetic surfaces.
In line with Neom’s commitment to sustainability, the water and power is produced sustainably. All the wastewater generated will be treated and reused to support the Lake and surrounding landscaping.
Neom’s first wastewater treatment and water recycling plant is already in operation, providing water for construction and environmental initiatives, he says. Additionally, recycled excavated materials are being used in construction, reducing the need for virgin materials.
Construction of Trojena is, indeed, complex with significant challenges relating to the logistics and sequencing, Gullett points out.
“Working with the various Neom sectors and support services, we are confident we can deliver on this challenge,” he states.
Excerpts of the interview:
Trojena will be a unique, futuristic ski destination offering year-round outdoor skiing and adventure sports. Walk us through the masterplan.
Trojena will be a unique and futuristic mountain destination, offering year-round outdoor skiing and adventure sports within a vast 57-sq-km area. It’s divided into six distinct clusters, each offering its own unique experiences and attractions.
The Gateway Cluster serves as the point of entry into Trojena. This cluster features The Vault, an innovative vertical village that combines hospitality, retail, F&B, and more. The Vault is also set to become a technological hub.
The Discover Cluster is all about exploration. The main asset in this cluster is The Discovery Tower, a prominent feature, nestled between two mountain peaks, offering high-end retail, dining options and an open-air museum. For breathtaking mountain views, visitors will have access to the Observatory. For astronomy enthusiasts, the Cosmic Gate is an astronomical park with stargazing opportunities.
Work in progress on the Ski Village.
The Valley Cluster is centred around a magnificent 2.8-km-long man-made freshwater lake. It’s the heart of Trojena and for all water-based activities and experiences. This cluster includes the Lake Village, the Water Village, and the Bow, an iconic living environment surrounded by mountains and water.
The Fun Cluster has the Ski Village, which is located in the highest point of Trojena. Here, visitors will find a dynamic hub for adventurous sports and leisure activities during the day and as the sun sets, a bustling nightlife centre, offering outdoor entertainment, dining, and stargazing opportunities.
The Relax Cluster is the allure of the mountains in Trojena, designed to be a tranquil oasis for relaxation and rejuvenation. This serene venue, situated on the mountain peaks, includes Slope Residences, Driving Experience Club House and Lifestyle Management Resort. Slope Residences is an exclusive neighbourhood with otherworldly chalets and mansions hanging on the cliff edges, with a unique health and wellness offering within a five-star hotel.
Finally, the Explore Cluster is nestled in the mountains and serves as an immersive wildlife reserve. It includes the Mountain Exclusive Resort, the Boutique Hiking Hotel, and luxury mansions. These accommodations offer breathtaking panoramic views of the Lake and surrounding areas, making them ideal for high-net-worth individuals seeking sophistication and natural beauty.
Which of these components are currently under construction?
Trojena is currently making significant construction progress across all clusters and major assets to deliver development to the 2026 construction completion target.
The excavation of the Lake commenced in early 2022. As of October 2023, approximately 3 million cu m of material has been excavated and reused for the Lake liner and dams.
An artist’s perspective of the Ski Village in the Fun Cluster.
With Trojena set to host the Asian Winter Games within the next six years, what are the components that are targeted for completion by this date?
Trojena is, indeed, gearing up to host the Asian Winter Games in 2029. We have set some ambitious targets to ensure the success of this event.
In addition to the Asian Winter Games, Trojena aims to welcome its first residents and visitors by early 2027. This involves the development of crucial infrastructure, which includes sports facilities, accommodation options, transportation networks, and event infrastructure.
There is no doubt it is challenging to build in this environment, especially as we are following strict guidelines on minimising the environmental impact of construction. However, construction is continuing at pace, and we are well on the way to creating The Lake and Vault.
Meanwhile, we are running regular tests on the artificial snow to supplement the natural fall.
VAULT & THE LAKE
What makes The Vault unique and what are the key components?
The Vault is a vertical village concept that is part of Neom’s innovative approach to address the environmental impact of urban sprawl. It’s a fusion of technology, residential, entertainment, and hospitality, all seamlessly integrated into a mountainous landscape. It is designed to be a community of the future and one of the world’s first digital cities.
What sets The Vault apart is its commitment to preserving nature, by limiting the footprint of the built area – in line with Neom’s approach to conservation. Approximately 95 per cent of the land in Neom is set aside for nature.
The Bow will be a unique living environment, enveloped by the Lake and will be a world-class destination.
The key components of The Vault include hospitality, retail, F&B, commercial, entertainment, and residential offerings, all concentrated in one place to minimise land usage and reduce its environmental footprint and overlooking a beautiful green public park. The Vault is not just a place to live and work; it’s a futuristic space that bridges the physical and digital worlds in a unique metaverse.
Designed in harmony with its natural surroundings and enabled by pioneering technologies, The Vault promises an innovative, intellectual, and edgy atmosphere. It features custom-made immersive (AR/VR) experiences and robotic engagement experiences.
Building something as unique as the Vault brings with it challenges that have never been encountered before. Please provide an insight into these challenges?
Trojena, and The Vault, are indeed complex projects, nestled within a challenging mountainous landscape. The significant challenges of the Vault relate to construction logistics and sequencing. Design, fabrication, delivery, and installation require detailed coordination between globally renowned architects, engineers, contractors and numerous subject matter experts.
Working with the various Neom sectors and support services, we are confident we can deliver on this challenge.
Work in progress to create the Vault, Neom’s vertical village concept.
What are the highlights of the 2.8-km-long Lake and the features that surround it?
The Lake itself is a hub of water-based activities and experiences, featuring three distinct developments: the Lake Village, the Water Village, and a bow-shaped underwater structure called The Bow.
The Lake will house an outdoor performance area, called the Mountain Stage, which will be surrounded by a scenic mountain backdrop and, once complete, will host world-class festivals and events.
The Lake Village, one of three developments within the Lake, is a vibrant lakeside community that will be home to a variety of exclusive residential, hospitality, and commercial experiences directly on the water’s edge. Here, residents and visitors will be able to enjoy a range of retail and dining offerings, fresh food, and souk-style shopping markets, along with nightlife and entertainment in both structured venues and through organic street performance and art opportunities.
The Water Village, nestled along the Lake’s edge, will offer a more exclusive and extravagant resort-living style experience.
The Bow will be a unique living environment, enveloped by the Lake and will be a world-class destination for global entertainment and events as well as luxury hospitality and F&B.
The Lake will also offer the Enchanted Forest, an outdoor park that sits below the Lake’s surface, providing an otherworldly experience for visitors. Envisioned as a sunken island park, the Enchanted Forest is a place where visitors can relax and enjoy the futuristic park amenities. But the Lake is more than just leisure; it embodies Trojena’s core concept of “enriching nature”. It fosters a thriving ecosystem, teeming with biodiversity from the surrounding area, showcasing the project’s commitment to harmonious living and sustainability.
The Vault, Neom’s vertical village concept.
The Bow structure designed on the front is an essential feature. Please explain why this is so for the architectural vision of this component?
The Lake has been designed by Australian architects Bureau^Proberts. The distinctive Bow structure located at the end of the Lake contributes significantly to the overall character and uniqueness of the Lake. The way it wraps around the area will give residents and visitors the experience of being surrounded by tranquil waters and breathtaking mountain vistas.
The Bow will be a global destination for entertainment and events. Its distinctive design sets it apart, making it an ideal venue for luxury hospitality, fine dining, and a wide range of entertainment experiences. This unique feature enhances the Lake’s appeal as a hub for global events and entertainment.
The Bow also embodies a sense of mystery and iconic architecture. It combines elements of art and innovative architectural concepts, seamlessly blending the natural environment with cutting-edge technology. This balance between aesthetics and technology is a key aspect of the Lake’s, and Trojena’s, distinctive character.
The Bow’s large atrium space offers adaptability, allowing for multipurpose use throughout different seasons. It can host diverse activities, from art galleries and exhibitions to global conferences, weddings, concerts, and congressional events. The integration of technology in these spaces enhances the overall experience, offering immersive and tailored venues.
Is this Lake being created from scratch? What will be the source of the fresh water in the Lake? What is the current status of work on the project?
Yes, we are developing a lake where none currently exists. The fresh water in The Lake will be sourced from the Red Sea from our zero discharge desalination plant in Duba using renewable energy.
In line with our commitment to sustainability, 100 per cent of the wastewater generated will be treated and reused to support the Lake and surrounding landscaping. Neom’s first wastewater treatment and water recycling plant is already in operation, providing water for construction and environmental initiatives.
Construction on The Lake began in 2022 and we’ve successfully excavated 3 million cu m of material since then, demonstrating our dedication to progress and sustainable practices.
Please provide details of the Advanced Technology Observatory planned.
The Discover Cluster includes three major assets, the Discovery Tower, the Observatory, and the Cosmic Gate. The Observatory will have a peak panoramic viewpoint revealing the mountain’s natural beauty, providing an over-the-cliff experience which maximises the high topographical relief and utilises innovative technology to bring visitors even closer to the stars.
The Discover Cluster includes three major assets, the Discovery Tower, the Observatory, and the Cosmic Gate.
Trojena is expected to comprise 12 hotels with 3,620+ hotel rooms and serviced apartments. How many hotel chains have been signed up to date?
In November 2022, we partnered with Ennismore Group to bring two of their luxury hotels, 25hours and Morgans Original, to our Ski Village. Early this year, The Chedi Hotels and Resorts signed with Trojena to provide mountain-side luxury at the Slope Residences.
In the Gateway Cluster, we announced our collaboration with Collective Retreats to create an ultra-sustainable retreat with open-air guest rooms and unique culinary experiences.
In June, we announced our partnership with Minor Hotels, which is expanding its luxury Anantara brand in Saudi Arabia with its debut in Trojena in the Water Village.
Lastly, in September we announced our first partnership with Marriott, with the W Hotel located in the Lake Village and the JW Marriott in The Bow.
What are the residential communities coming up within Trojena? How many residences will they comprise? And is work underway on them?
We are proud to offer a wide range of residential products, from apartments to ultra-luxury mansions. This diversity is designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of buyers and investors, ensuring that Trojena meets the needs and preferences of our community.
In terms of residential units, we have an ambitious plan that includes 25 ultra-luxury mansions, 95 mansions, 360 chalets, 250 Golf Villas and more than 2,200 apartments. These options will provide a range of choices for individuals and families seeking to make Trojena their second home.
The construction of Trojena’s various components is progressing well, signifying our commitment to bringing this exciting project to life.
Skills & Technology
The project demands skills that are scarce worldwide. How has Neom been addressing this issue?
Delivering a project of the scale and ambition of Trojena is no small feat. Neom is one of the world’s largest projects of this kind and, given our commitment to technological advancement and sustainability, we are attracting some of the world’s leaders in construction and design to work at the cutting edge of sustainable development with new techniques and new skills.
This is why, throughout the project, and across our regions including Sindalah, The Line, Trojena, and Oxagon, we have partnered with the greatest minds and leading players in the design and construction world.
Some innovative technologies and techniques are being pioneered in the construction – such as using helicopter-aided construction. Please elaborate on advanced technologies such as digital twins, artificial intelligence, robotics, and modular construction being used to ensure efficiency on the project.
Across the development and construction of Neom, we are leveraging advanced technologies like digital twins, artificial intelligence, robotics, and modular construction techniques.
Digital twins, for instance, play a crucial role in our project by creating virtual replicas of our construction processes and infrastructure. This enables us to closely monitor and optimise every aspect of the development – from design to construction and maintenance.
Artificial intelligence and robotics are being integrated into our construction processes to enhance efficiency and precision. These technologies help us automate tasks, streamline workflows, and improve the overall productivity of the project.
Modular construction is another key aspect of our approach, allowing us to assemble prefabricated components off-site and then integrate them seamlessly into the construction process. This not only reduces construction time but also minimises waste and enhances sustainability.
When it comes to the construction of Trojena, we are indeed at the forefront of innovation, adopting cutting-edge technologies to ensure efficiency and sustainability throughout the project. We are using heavy-lifting helicopters to help us reach difficult development sites quickly and efficiently.
Trojena is expected to offer advanced mobility solutions that take residents and visitors around the zone as well as connect to The Line. Please provide us with an insight into these systems.
Trojena, once operational, will offer a range of mobility solutions that prioritise both sustainability and efficiency. Visitors will have access to a variety of sustainable ground and air mobility options to reach and move around the destination.
Onsite, we are planning a diverse range of transportation options, including specialised modes of transportation like funiculars, ropeways, and electric-powered vehicle.
These systems are designed to provide convenient and eco-friendly transportation within Trojena.
What are the measures being taken to minimise Trojena’s environmental impact, given that the hotels and residences need to be carved out of the mountainous terrain; building materials need to be transported over long distances; and the impact of construction vehicles on site?
Sustainability is at the core of everything we do at Neom, and Trojena is fully committed to minimising its environmental impact through a range of sustainable practices.
Much like Neom’s other flagship locations – The Line, Oxagon, and Sindalah – Trojena will be powered entirely by renewable energy sources. In line with our commitment to conservation, approximately 95 per cent of the land in Neom is set aside for nature.
Our innovative architectural and building methods are designed to harmoniously coexist with the surrounding environment. We’re also incorporating sustainable snow production and melt strategies, using renewable energy for snow machines, and implementing energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.
Additionally, recycled excavated materials are being used in construction, reducing the need for virgin materials.
To further reduce our carbon footprint, we will be treating and reusing 100 per cent of wastewater. Biosolids generated will be processed for biogas and biomaterials to support reforestation and landscaping.
At Trojena, our goal is to achieve near-zero carbon emissions, minimal waste, net-positive biodiversity, in a development that promotes a healthier environment, all in line with Neom’s sustainability commitments.
Trojena aims to be the new pinnacle for experiences, offering more than 100 indoor and outdoor activities. What are some of the highlights of these activities? Which of these will be offered in time for the opening of Trojena?
Sport and physical activity are at the centre of Neom’s lifestyle. Trojena will offer a range of sporting activities and experiences, when it comes online in 2026, including high-tech adventure sports, contributing to Neom’s vision of becoming a leading global hub for sport.
Among the sporting activities which will be available for tourists and residents are: Hiking, tubing, kayaking, skiing/snowboarding, zip lining, mountain biking, skateboarding, cycling, climbing, and ice skating.
One of the key attributes of Trojena is the beautiful mountain weather, which is significantly cooler than the surrounding regions. This allows residents and guests to enjoy the outdoors in Trojena 12 months of the year, providing the perfect backdrop for a variety of sporting activities no matter the season.
Among the other events and activities which will be available for tourists and residents are: film festivals, wellness events, artist residency, yoga retreat, winter fashion week, food festivals, cultural weeks, music festivals, lightshows and outdoor cinema.
Outdoor skiing will be available all year round - although not always on snowy terrain. Please provide us with an insight into the different surfaces for the 36 km of ski slopes that will be created to enable this.
At Trojena, we will offer a diverse skiing experience throughout the year. In the winter, we will produce man-made snow to accommodate our 36 km of ski slopes. During the other months, skiing enthusiasts will be able to ski on synthetic surfaces.
We will utilise machine-made snow to cover approximately 75 per cent of our slopes. This technology allows us to maintain optimal skiing conditions for three months of the year where the low temperatures provide optimal snowmaking. The water and power are all sustainable and provided by renewable energy, largely solar and wind.
In addition to this, our Ski Village, situated within the Fun Cluster at an elevation of around 2,400 m above sea level, will serve as a central hub for year-round outdoor activities. Visitors to the Ski Village will be able to enjoy a range of outdoor pursuits, including snow skiing in the winter, and a diverse array of activities during the rest of the year.
What’s particularly unique about the Ski Village is its activated roofscape, which is skiable and connects to the central plaza and ski slopes down the mountain.
How many tourists will Trojena accommodate when fully operational and who are its main target audience?
By 2030, when Trojena is set to be fully operational, we expect to attract 700,000 annual visitors.
As for Trojena’s main target audience, we aim to provide a wide range of unique, enriching, and fulfilling experiences to people of all ages and motivations. Our target audience, therefore, is quite diverse and includes luxury travellers, sports enthusiasts, and families interested in a variety of experiences. Our offering caters to a broad range of interests and age groups.