Italian architect Carlo Ratti has followed Norman Foster in suspending his participation on the advisory board of a $500 billion mega-city in Saudi Arabia amid the continuing focus on the murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi
Both designers had been recently named as among 18 ‘global experts’ on the global advisory board for NEOM, a proposed desert ’smart city’, described as the world’s most ambitious project and overseen by the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The AJ has now established that Ratti, a visiting research fellow at Cambridge University and a professor at MIT with practice studios in Turin and New York, has also halted his participation with NEOM while investigations into the fate of the Washington Post writer continue.
Foster confirmed he had taken this step a fortnight ago after the AJ revealed the participation of the Foster & Partners’ founder and chairman on 19 October.
The international media remains focused on the exact fate of Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the Crown Prince, who disappeared after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.
Authorities in Turkey – who say Khashoggi was murdered within the consulate by a hit squad sent from Riyadh – are still searching for the remains of the journalist.
Earlier this week, the office of the Turkish chief prosecutor said Khashoggi’s body was dismembered after he was strangled. The Saudi authorities have put forward a range of conflicting accounts of what happened to him and have denied any knowledge of the body’s whereabouts.
Other members of the NEOM advisory board have also distanced themselves from the project, including Ernest Moniz, a former US secretary of energy under President Obama, who was the first to announce he was suspending his participation.
A spokesperson for Dan Doctoroff, chief executive of Google parent company Alphabet’s urban planning unit Sidewalk Labs, claimed in a statement last month that NEOM had been ‘incorrect’ to ever include Doctoroff on its list of advisory board members.