There is The Line, a linear smart city currently under construction in Neom, Tabuk Province, Saudi Arabia, envisioned to be devoid of cars, streets, or carbon emissions. Envisioned as a revolutionary city spanning 170 kilometers, towering 500 meters above sea level yet only 200 meters wide. The world has never seen anything like this before. The project redefines urban development and the future cityscape. The Line promises a transformative model operating solely on 100% renewable energy. Ultimately designed to house 9 million people, it covers just 34 square kilometers. The goal is for the residents to be able to conveniently access all daily essentials within a five-minute walk, alongside a high-speed rail system offering end-to-end transit in just 20 minutes. A genuine city of the future, city of luxury, a city for a few.

There is The Other Line, created as an AI project, by AI-DA, a Rome-based studio specializing in AI-assisted design and architecture who have identified several issues with the utopian vision of The Line itself.

“Focusing on the data, we discover that the approximately 300,000 people expected in the 2.4 km to be built by 2023 would be sufficient to entirely accommodate the so-called ultra-high-net worth individuals (UHNWI), i.e., the 243,060 individuals (2022 data) with higher investable assets to 10 million dollars or that 0.005% that controls 5.5% of the world’s wealth. Referring overall to the overall population envisaged by the initial project (9 million), the construction of THE LINE could entirely accommodate the 59.4 million people (1.1% of the world population who control 45% of global wealth (for a total of approximately 208 trillion dollars).”

All the known principles of addressing democratic urban development are upended in this luxury-focused city. The goal of maximizing collective and recreational spaces through intensive land use now results in extreme privatization and control within The Line, enclosed by skyscraper walls that exclude public access. Beyond this boundary lies only desert, making this modern oasis inaccessible to the many excluded from it. This raises the question: where will the rest of us live?

The (Other) Line serves as the counterpart, a mirrored reflection of the first. It is a congested and bustling infrastructural route, marked by points of concentration and symbolic representations of administrative authority. This acts as the sole binding force and connection within a sprawling city that extends endlessly across the territory.

“AI-DA’s AI-generated cityscapes are brazen and cannot help but show their true nature by replacing the natural landscape. As much as the former celebrates 100% renewable energy, the absence of machines, and polluting emissions, the latter will not be able to give up fossil fuels, traffic, and pollution in order to support its development and survive.”

As the studio claims:

“As much as the former is mimetic, sophisticated and aims to hide its true nature behind the technological precision of a mirrored facade, as much as the latter is brazen and cannot help but show itself by replacing the natural landscape.”