From the very beginnings of the genre, science fiction has been heavily influenced by our lived urban environment. Early masterpieces such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis capitalized on our growing anxieties over the pace of rapid urbanization and took them to dizzying extremes.
The urban landscapes of iconic films such as Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner and Spike Jonze’s Her conjure up dreamy and terrifying near-future versions of our own living situations. Earlier than that, the Metropolis of the Superman franchise and even the Gotham City of Batman both play a central role as characters, pushing the boundaries of reality in a slight but powerful way.
Like everything in science fiction, the cities of sci-fi are heavily influenced by real life, and vice-versa. With urban planners now looking towards sci-fi cities as inspiration, futuristic megacities are becoming commonplace. Read on to learn more about the world’s real-life sci-fi cities.
Dubai in the UAE may well be the closest glimpse we have of what urban living may look like in the future if climate change continues its destructive course. The city is a shining monument to humanity’s hubris, located in the heart of the desert, where temperature frequently surpasses 50 degrees Celsius. Despite this, the city has indoor snow-skiing, ice skating, and surfing, with almost the entire city center being navigable without having to ever step outside, beyond the air-conditioned malls.
If there’s any city that looks like it came straight out of Blade Runner, it’s the Chinese gambling Mecca Macau. The city has all of the glitz, glamour, and hedonism of the Los Angeles depicted in Ridley Scott’s film, with more casino space and higher gambling revenues that anywhere in the world. In fact, more than 90% of Macau’s land-based casino income comes from the game Baccarat. Baccarat is a classic high variance table game, one that remains immensely popular among the locals and visitors which call this extreme and crowded city their home.
Singapore is often looking upon as a model for urban living, one that represents the more optimistic dreams of the greatest science fiction writers. One of the cleanest and safest cities in the world, first-time visitors may be struck by the proliferation of utopian-looking bio-domes and artificial tropical gardens which provide clean air to the city’s denizens, particularly those located in the Gardens by the Bay development, which look like something straight out of Avatar. In the macro-timeline of science fiction, Dubai represents one future, Singapore another.
While Paris is more well-known for its neoclassical boulevards and elegant 17th-century gardens, head further out and you’ll see a whole new world. The vast concrete postmodern housing estates which line the outskirts of the city could easily be at home in Kubrick sci-fi film or JG Ballard’s High Rise. The seemingly unending estates contain colossal buildings that defy physics and can only be described as ominous creations that oppress more than they inspire.
The sci-fi world is never too far removed from our lived realities. If all of these iconic cities represent our possible futures, let’s hope for the best outcome.