There is No More Land, There is Only Sand

By Milica Topalovic
20 Aug 2017 | Johann Jacobs Museum

The process of Singapore’s transformation from a backwater colonial port, predominantly rural, to the new nation of industrial middle class housed in public high rises, was dubbed a “territorial revolution” with many layers: the social, political and economic dimensions of the national territory have been sculpted by the hand of the state, using topography as the main medium.

Singapore also shows that construction of urban land usually doesn’t come without a (vast) hinterland. The city-state is known as the world’s largest importer of sand for construction, as is located at the center of the sand-trade region whose radius extends to South China, Cambodia, and Myanmar. With nearly a quarter of its land area, around 140 square kilometers, added over the years, it has been estimated that three-quarters of this is “built on foreign soil.”


Milica Topalovic is an architect, urbanist, and an Assistant Professor of Architecture and Territorial Planning at ETH Zurich. Expanding the traditional focus of urbanism and urban studies, her research expertise is on territory and territorial urbanization beyond the limits of “the city”.

The lecture was given on occasion of the exhibition Charles Lim Yi Yong: Sailing Yacht to Singapore.