A Saudi Arabian plan to build an environmentally-friendly “line city” along the coast of the Red Sea was received with horror by critics who likened it to a “dystopian hell.”
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday unveiled conceptual designs for the Neom project, an ambitious $500 billion plan to build a futuristic one-building city in the desert that would stretch over 106 miles and house 9 million people.
Called, “the Line,” the plan is to build a single 656 ft. wide building that would act as a vertical city, designed to rise 1,640 ft. above sea level, which higher than the Empire State Building. The city would have an open interior that is enclosed on both sides by a mirrored wall, which would reflect the surrounding desert and the Red Sea.
Saudi state media released a video showing a CGI-rendering of the proposed city, touting it as a “revolution in civilization” that will “provide a healthier and more sustainable quality of life.”
“Imagine a traditional city and consolidating its footprint, designing it to protect and enhance nature,” the video’s narrator says.
A press release for the project claims the city will run on “100% renewable energy” and that high-speed rail systems will enable residents to travel end to end within “20 minutes,” without the need for roads, cars, or carbon emissions.
“The designs revealed today for the city’s vertically layered communities will challenge the traditional flat, horizontal cities and create a model for nature preservation and enhanced human livability. THE LINE will tackle the challenges facing humanity in urban life today and will shine a light on alternative ways to live,” bin Salman said in a statement.
“We cannot ignore the livability and environmental crises facing our world’s cities, and NEOM is at the forefront of delivering new and imaginative solutions to address these issues. NEOM is leading a team of the brightest minds in architecture, engineering and construction to make the idea of building upwards a reality,” he added.
But critics have panned the project, calling the promotional video for the city “dystopian.”
“What is this dystopian hell line city,” political commentator Ian Miles Cheong tweeted.
“This is basically the opening scene of a dystopian sci-fi film, they’ve just cut it before the birds start crashing into the mirrored-glass facade, the delivery drones start attacking people and the residents of each section organize into warring factions,” said Gregg Carlstrom, a Middle East correspondent for the Economist.
The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh said, “I’d rather be dead than live in something like this.”
Others questioned the project’s technological feasibility.
“Scale of this is incredible. Would involve 170,000,000 square metres of mirrored glass. Is that even possible?” asked Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor of Middle East studies at Qatar’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University.
This proposal for “the Line” is part of a broader Saudi effort to attract tourism to the kingdom and bolster the nation’s standing in the international community with respect to climate change, according to CNN.
However, Saudi Arabia has faced criticism for its atrocious human rights record and oppression of persons who hold views critical of the government, including journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated on bin Salman’s orders in 2018, according to U.S. intelligence.
The Neom project has also been opposed by human rights activists, who have said that plans to build “the Line” would force thousands of tribal people in the region to resettle. Alya Alhwaiti, a member of the Howaitat tribe who had publicly opposed the Neom project, was killed by Saudi security forces, who claimed he had opened fire on them.