GAM 15 Territorial Justice
April 2019

Built on Foreign Sand: Singapore’s Sand Hinterland and the Construction of TerritoryHans Hortig

Arriving on a barge to Singapore, a load of sand transforms from a cheap generic material into an exorbitantly priced piece of land or property: Cambodian river sediments mutate into public housing complexes, Indonesian islands into industrial estates, and Vietnamese sand into beaches along the Singapore Strait. How does this metabolic transformation of sand unfold and who are the actors facilitating, guiding, and profiting from the process of making new land? Based on the case study of Singapore’s extensive land reclamation projects, this article investigates the construction of territory as physical form as well as the socio-political, spatial, and environmental consequences of sand trade and accumulation. In doing so, the work will reflect on territorial justice by showing how sand is excluded from Singapore’s sustainability policies to externalise trading networks and how land reclamation projects are solely driven by an economic imperative neglecting any form of public participation and public programming of the new land. On a wider scope, the following essay uses the case of land reclamation to show the growing influence of humans as geomorphological agents and reveal ecologies of resource extraction and circulation as crucial topics of architectural investigation.