Will the World Ever Be Ready For a Linear Metropolis?

Saudi Arabia has unveiled designs for a futuristic megastructure in the desert. But it is an idea that has preoccupied the imaginations of architects – and megalomaniacs – for generations.

The army of consultants commissioned to work on Neom, the $500bn urban region of which the Line is part, comprises not only urban planners but numerous digital artists from the special effects industry. According to a Bloomberg report, they include Olivier Pron, a designer who helped create the look of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy films; Nathan Crowley, known for his work on the brooding Dark Knight trilogy of Batman movies; and futurist Jeff Julian, who worked on the apocalyptic extravaganzas World War Z and I Am Legend. The ominous dystopian undertone to the aesthetic of the project can also be partly explained by Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman’s apparent penchant for cyberpunk – a sci-fi genre, notes the Oxford English Dictionary, “typified by a bleak, hi-tech setting in which a lawless subculture exists within an oppressive society dominated by computer technology”. If ever there was an urban vision that embraced our end-of-days climate apocalypse, a petrodollar mirage of horizontal glass skyscrapers in the desert as the world burns, then this is it.

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