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10 futuristic megacities being built that will change Earth’s landscape forever

A handout picture provided by Saudi's NEOM on July 26, 2022 shows the design plan for the 500-metre tall parallel structures, known collectively as The Line, in the heart of the Red Sea megacity NEOM. - A futuristic megacity in Saudi Arabia will feature two massive, mirror-encased skyscrapers that extend over 170 kilometres of desert and mountain terrain, ultimately housing nine million people, the kingdom's de facto ruler has announced. (Photo by NEOM / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT
Saudi Arabia has dug a 75-mile long canyon along which it plans to build a £800 billion mirrored city, known as The Line (Picture: AFP)

In the deserts of Saudi Arabia, the country’s government has broken ground on an ambitious £800 billion project to build a city of the future. 

If completed, the mirror-walled metropolis, dubbed ‘The Line’, will run an impressive 75 miles long and feature glass skyscrapers, an artificial river, an octagonal floating port and even a synthetic ski resort. 

Conceived by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, it’s even said the city will feature robots and other AI systems to cater to every whim of an estimated nine million future residents.

Many have cast doubt over the project’s feasibility, given its eye-watering costs and the significant logistical challenges of constructing something so lush in one of the world’s most inhospitable landscapes. 

But astonishing new aerial pictures this week reveal how construction has already begun on the sci-fi megacity.

Posting the photos, project COO Giles Pendleton has said: ‘How to answer the naysayers about the incredible work being done? Show a cross-section of the world’s largest building site from the mountains to the sea.’

Ambitious though Saudi plans may be, they’re not alone. Here, Metro.co.uk takes a look at 10 other countries either planning or in the process of building their spectacular metropolises of the future – some far more successfully than others.

Net City, China

Technology giant Tencent has unveiled plans for an almost entirely car-free ?city of the future,? equivalent in size to Monaco, in the Chinese metropolis of Shenzhen. Dubbed ?Net City,? the 2-million-square-meter (22-million-square-foot) urban development will prioritize pedestrians, green spaces and self-driving vehicles, according to its designers.
Tencent is building what they claim will be an almost entirely car-free ‘city of the future’ in the Chinese metropolis of Shenzhen (Picture: NBBJ)

Back in 2020, Chinese tech giant Tencent unveiled their plans for Net City – a car-free ‘city of the future’ roughly the size of Monaco that’s currently under construction in Shenzhen. 

According to current designs, this ‘city within a city’ will give pedestrians green spaces and self-driving vehicles priority across more than 22 million square feet of urban development built out over the Pearl River. 

NBBJ, the US firm behind plans for the new district, has said: ‘It’s not meant to be an isolated, secure island – it’s a vibrant city. People will walk through it, they’ll connect, and it will be a vital hub for Shenzhen.’

Nusantara, Indonesia

Government facilities under construction at the new national capital Nusantara (IKN) in Penajam Paser Utara, Indonesia, on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. Indonesian tycoons are leading the way in investing in the country's new capital city, with a hotel starting construction on Thursday. Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Many are sceptical of the feasibility of Indonesia’s Nusantara development, given the government has only committed to funding 20% of the project (Picture: Getty Images)

Situated on the east coast of the Indonesian island of Borneo, Nusantara is expected to encompass roughly 990 square miles by the time it’s supposed to be completed in 2045. 

The country’s government reportedly plans to use the city as its new capital, a symbolic gesture toward centralisation, given historic criticism that policies have long been too focused on the island of Java, where the current capital of Jakarta is located. 

Artists’ renderings of the plans to date show a sprawling urban complex interlaced with waterways and lush green spaces, with officials saying as much as 75% of the land will be preserved for nature. 

But some have raised questions about how easy it will be to finance development – the Indonesian government has only committed to covering 20% of project costs, hoping to source the remaining 80% from international investors. 

Woven City, Japan

epa08108885 Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda (L) and Danish architect Bjarke Ingels delivers a speech presenting the Toyota Woven City, a futuristic city where new technologies will be tested, during the Toyota press conference at the 2020 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 06 January 2020. The annual CES which takes place from 7-10 January is a place where industry manufacturers, advertisers and tech-minded consumers converge to get a taste of new innovations coming to the market each year. EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT
Toyota is planning to build a new city as a playground for testing new technologies for future living (Picture: EPA)

Described by its developer – the car manufacturer Toyota – as a ‘living laboratory’, Woven City is an urban development currently under construction at the foot of Japan’s Mount Fuji. 

It’s expected the city will initially be home to around 360 residents, with a desired increase to at least two thousand going into the future. 

According to Toyota’s website: ‘This number will include Toyota employees and researchers, who will be able to test and develop technologies such as artificial intelligence in a real world environment.’

While many of the cities on this list lean full-tilt into the metal and glass aesthetic of sci-fi, the company claims that most of the buildings in Woven City will be constructed from wood, using traditional techniques executed by industrial robots. 

BiodiverCity, Malaysia

?Biodiver City? is a proposed project by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) to create a small chain of biodiverse island habitats off the northwest coast of Malaysia to alleviate overcrowding on the country?s mainland. The Malaysian island of Penang, typically known for its beaches and food, is set to host this new project, where three new islands will be created to house some 15,000 people and fix what authorities describe as ?a lack of economic opportunity.? Selected ahead of 5 other finalists in a competition held by the Penang State Government, BIG?s BiodiverCity proposal is meant to, ?be a new sustainable global destination where cultural, ecological and economic growth is secured and where people and nature coexist in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet at the southern shore of Penang Island.?
BiodiverCity is a proposed project to create a small chain of biodiverse island habitats off the northwest coast of Malaysia to alleviate overcrowding on the country’s mainland (Picture: Bjarke Ingels Group/Biodiver City)

Between 15,000 and 18,000 residents are expected to move onto three artificial islands off the shore of Penang Island, Malaysia, once the lilypad-shaped urban developments are completed sometime after 2030.

With great pains reportedly being taken to protect the biodiversity of the coastal zones and other natural habitats surrounding the cities, each of the islands will also be connected by a water, air and land-based transportation network prioritising bikers and pedestrians. 

According to developers BIG: ‘Biodiversity will be a new sustainable global destination where cultural, ecological and economic growth is secured and where people and nature coexist in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet at the southern shore of Penang Island.’

Maldives Floating City, Maldives

Maldives Floating City ? Finalist Mipim Awards The Maldives Floating City has been shortlisted for the MIPIM Awards, which is famously known as the ?Oscars for Global Development?. The MIPIM Awards is regarded as the most prestigious award given on an international scale for development projects while MIPIM is a global real estate event, that is widely considered as the world?s leading such event. The Maldives? floating city project was shortlisted under the ?Best Future Mega Project? category from among 161 other such projects. This modern and innovative concept aims to provide housing for the locals as well as attract tourists.
Maldives Floating City is designed to enable coral habitats to develop beneath the surface of the development (Picture: Maldives Floating City)

The Maldives has taken things a step further than Malaysia, building a city that not only actually floats on the water, but which also allows coral habitats to develop along the underside of its districts. 

A website for the initiative says: ‘Maldives Floating City is based on the local culture of this sea-farers nation. Maldivians have a strong relation with the sea, so living on water is aligned with their culture and history.’

The shape of the city itself is inspired by the structure of so-called ‘brain coral’, reflecting how ‘the goal of living with nature and learning to improve and respect natural coral is at the heart of the development.’

The project appears to be nearing completion, with the government stating sales will start soon and that they are already open to expressions of interest. 

Eko Atlantic, Nigeria

A cargo ship passes along a waterway near the Afren Plc tower during construction at the Eko Atlantic city site, developed by Eko Atlantic, near Victoria island in Lagos, Nigeria, on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. Eko Atlantic city is an area of land reclaimed from the Atlantic ocean being developed into 10 million square meters of real estate. Photographer: George Osodi/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Some Lagos locals claim they’ve been forced to relocate due to flooding caused by development on the Eko Atlantic project (Picture: Getty Images)

Much like Tencent’s Net City in China, the government of Nigeria’s Lagos State has also undertaken to build a city of the future on land reclaimed from the water – this time, the Atlantic Ocean. 

Currently under construction on Victoria Island, adjacent to the nation’s capital, the project has been marketed as a bid to solve ‘the chronic shortage of real estate in the world’s fastest growing megacity’.

But the development has come under repeated fire from local residents, who say the ongoing work has caused significant coastal erosion in the area, with resultant flooding forcing many to relocate. 

Akon City, Senegal

A man walks past a Mosque in the village of Mbodiene on August 30, 2021. - One year after rapper, Akon, laid the first stone of his six billion dollar city outside the small seas side village of Mbodiene, the site remains empty. The city is intended to become home to three hundred thousand people and be a beacon fo innovation and human development. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP) (Photo by JOHN WESSELS/AFP via Getty Images)
Akon’s project to build a Wakandaesque city in Senegal has been mired by delays and controversies, including a claim the development is a ‘scam’ (Picture: AFP)

Five years ago, Senegalese-American rapper and entrepreneur Akon wowed the world with his plans to build a new city inspired by Wakanda, the fictional African country from Marvel’s Black Panther films. 

Initial plans boasted a dazzling Afrofuturistic aesthetic, with Akon also claiming the city’s economy would largely run on his eponymous Akoin currency. 

While the first phase of construction was scheduled to be completed by 2023, the project has unfortunately been marred by repeated delays and controversies. 

Much of this centres around a 2021 lawsuit, in which one of Akon’s former business partners alleged that Akon City was likely ‘a scam’ to raise money from investors and the Senegalese state. 

Oceanix Busan, South Korea

OCEANIX Busan is the world?s first prototype of a resilient and sustainable floating community.
Oceanix Busan was conceived with backing from the UN as the ‘world’s first prototype of a resilient and sustainable floating community’ (Picture: Oceanix)

Another floating city, Oceanix Busan was conceived by the South Korean government as a solution to severe land shortages around the city of Busan, which it’s estimated will only become more acute as the effects of climate change are more severely felt in the future. 

Scheduled for completion next year, with backing from the United Nations as a ‘prototype’ for how similar initiatives might be implemented around the world, officials in Busan have described the new development as ‘an interconnected neighbourhood adding additional space to South Korea’s second largest city.’

It’s expected that Oceanix Busan will be well-sheltered from extreme weather events due to its location in a sheltered lagoon. 

Each ‘platform’, as the city’s three components are known, will provide space for approximately 12,000 residents and visitors, with plans to expand to as many as twenty platforms in future. 

Developers have further claimed ‘the floating city will generate 100% of the required energy itself’, with each neighbourhood ‘treating and replenishing its own water, recycling its resources, and providing urban agriculture’.

Masdar City, UAE

The knowledge center in Masdar City on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023. Though the futuristic development has failed to live up to its founding promises --- the world's first zero-carbon, zero-waste city -- it could end up becoming a blueprint on how to use city planning and architecture to make urban life bearable in extremely hot latitudes. Photographer: Natalie Naccache/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City has arguably failed to live up to the hype with which it was first announced as ‘the world’s most sustainable eco-city’ back in 2006 (Picture: Getty Images)

An urban community in Abu Dhabi, Masdar City was built by the eponymous subsidiary of state-owned Mubadala Investment Company with the goal of becoming ‘the world’s most sustainable eco-city’ by 2016. 

Many believe the £22 billion state-funded project has, however, very much failed to live up to the hype. 

After almost 20 years, the district currently covers less than a sixth of the area it was initially intended to, and is home to just 5,000 of its 45,000 anticipated residents. 

All the same, development remains ongoing, with a number of start-ups as well as Siemens regional headquarters located in the district. 

Telosa, USA

Telosa, USA
Initial plans for Telosa put stills from Dune to shame, though a location hasn’t been set for the development as of yet (Picture: Telosa)

Brainchild of billionaire entrepreneur Marc Lore, Telosa stands out from other entries on this list not for its goals of sustainability or eco-consciousness, but for its principles of ownership. 

Lore has said his vision is for the land on which the city is built to be entirely owned by a ‘community endowment’, effectively an independent investment fund run by a non-profit organisation. 

He believes this will enable investors to leverage future increases in the value of that land to finance Tesola’s development far into the future. 

It remains very much still in the planning stages though, with even a location for the ambitious project yet to be determined.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

For more stories like this, check our news page.

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