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#trending: Revolutionary or dystopian? Video shows peculiar design of futuristic Saudi city ‘The Line'

JEDDAH — Saudi Arabia recently revealed designs for a futuristic city to be built in the middle of the desert. Known as "The Line", the city is a narrow strip bordered by mirrored walls. A video of the design was released on July 26, prompting netizens to comment on the "dystopian" city, making pop cultural references to shows such as Black Mirror and Hunger Games.

A handout picture showing the design plan for the 170km-long, 500m-tall parallel structures of an "eco-city" known collectively as The Line, in the heart of the Red Sea megacity Neom.

A handout picture showing the design plan for the 170km-long, 500m-tall parallel structures of an "eco-city" known collectively as The Line, in the heart of the Red Sea megacity Neom.

JEDDAH — In a possible case of life imitating art, flying pods zipping around a futuristic city may not be too far off should “The Line” materialise. This would be the visionary eco-city to be built in the middle of the desert in Saudi Arabia. 

Named quite literally after its design, The Line will be a tall and narrow strip extending 170 kilometres across the desert and mountain terrains, along the coast of the Red Sea.

A promotional video titled What is The Line? was released on Tuesday (July 26) by megacity Neom on YouTube and various social media platforms, introducing plans for the ambitious project by Saudi Arabia.

Neom was first announced in 2017 and is Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Salman's megaproject. It was envisioned as a high-tech hub in the desert the size of Belgium and would include a mountain ski resort and an industrial city.

The Line is one of these cities within the plan, outlined as a car-free utopia that would become the planet's most liveable city "by far".

The video showing what it may look like has received 325,000 views within two days and a repost of the video on TikTok by Australian news site had 19.3 million views as of Thursday (July 28).

In the video that the filmmakers of the British series Black Mirror probably wished they had produced, a female voice narrates while a satellite visual of the earth pulls up: “For too long, humanity has existed within the dysfunctional and polluted cities that ignore nature.

“Now, a revolution in civilisation is taking place.” 

The Line is designed to protect nature and will house nine million residents, the video explains. Residents will have access to necessities within a five-minute walk and can travel end to end in 20 minutes via a high-speed rail. 

Flying pods swoop around futuristic structures as the video plays on, looking suspiciously like the futuristic 22nd-century city in Japanese anime series Doremon. 

The 170km-long, 500m-tall and 200m-wide structure that is The Line will be encased within a mirrored facade and run entirely on renewable energy, with no cars or emissions. 

The peculiar design of the “dystopian” city has drawn reactions from people online, with many making pop cultural references to shows such as Hunger Games, Divergent, Black Mirror and dystopian dramas of a similar vein.

One YouTube user quipped: “This feels like the video you see in the first act of a sci-fi movie before everything goes to hell in the second.”

Another online user commented on the video reposted by on TikTok: “This is going to be like a movie where the poor are dying outside and the rich look out the window.

Following the dystopian theme, people are speculating that the city will widen the class divide.

A TikTok user, recalling the storyline in South Korean box-office film Parasite, said: “We’ve all seen every 70’s/80’s sci-fi films where the rich are at the top in the clean air (zone) and all the lower class are at the bottom choking….”

Others see humour in the project’s publicity.  

One TikTok user joked: “Window cleaners be like 🤑🤑.” 

Another said: “I love The Line… I pledge undying allegiance to The Line. I will give my life for The Line.”

The future Neom region will operate under its own founding law, which has yet to be announced. However, Saudi officials said that the kingdom's alcohol ban will remain.

Online users have also questioned the feasibility of the project that will cost one trillion Saudi riyals (roughly S$443 billion). 

Others pointed to the possibility of birds crashing on the walls of the mirrored skyscrapers, while others were worried about the impact on the ecology of the desert. 

One YouTube user suggested that the mental health of Neom's inhabitants may be affected. “What about claustrophobia? They will live in a narrow corridor of about 100m between endless (high and long) walls, with very limited natural light. It sounds scary!”

The privacy of residents was also called into question, with one saying: “As explained, almost everything will be autonomous. What that probably means is a lot of data being collected about each residents' habits etc. This is a big worry.”

Related topics

Saudi Arabia architecture NEOM The Line desert eco-city Technology trending YouTube

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