Swiss Architecture Museum

Sand and Labour: Resources of Architectural Production

At first glance, the island city-state of Singapore is the “city without a hinterland”. Certainly, it is the city whose production grounds and vital resources lie beyond national borders. The economic incorporation of hinterland territories in Malaysia, Indonesia, Southern Asia and beyond, has remained both a necessity and a profitable opportunity for Singapore.

In contrast to standard representations of cities as self-propelled economic powerhouses, the project Hinterland—Singapore Beyond the Border tracks the wide-ranging flows of food, water, energy, sand, and labor-power that support this growing urban centre.

As essential resources of architectural production and urbanization, this exhibition focus on two of Singapore’s key resources: Sand and Labour. While sand is used in the construction industry as well as for large scale land reclamation projects, workers from all over Southeast Asia are temporarily hosted in Singapore to supply their labour power. Both resources are paradigmatic cases to study the hinterland of architectural production—territories of extraction and accumulation as well as spaces of material flows. They reveal architectures, and potential projects, that are beyond the usual scope of architectural practitioners.

In this contribution, the Architecture of Territory at ETH Zurich problematises the role of design, which overlooks exploitative practices in the production of both architecture and territory. In turn, it provides insights that enable architects and designers to critically engage with urgent urban transformations in the hinterlands.

"Much of the work of architecture takes place before and after the actual act of construction, as architects probe the conditions governing the territories in which they are intervening. In a process similar to that of investigative journalism, they collect pieces of evidence, analyse them and synthesise them into a narrative.
The exhibition Under the Radar presents an international overview of significant research projects dealing with this investigative form of architecture." (S AM)