Coastal land reclamation is increasing and will continue to grow and be a popular urban strategy in places that experience urban growth.
This is according to a study, “Mapping 21st Century Global Coastal Land Reclamation,” that analyzed landsat satellite images from 2000 to 2020 to quantify spatial extent, scale, and land use of urban coastal reclamation of 135 cities globally with populations exceeding one million. Key findings indicate that 78% of these cities have turned to reclamation to create additional land, resulting in 253,000 hectares of new land, an area equivalent to Luxembourg.
Land reclamation is the process of creating new land from the sea. It’s often used in places with scarcity of land and high population density for many purposes. From Western Europe and West Africa to the Middle East, East Asia, and Southeast Asia, these countries’ cities reclaim lands for port extension, residential/commercial, and industrial purposes aimed at creating tourist and green spaces. Key drivers like global trade and rapid urbanization are already ubiquitous, so for the next step, these cities desire prestigious place-making efforts and enhanced international reputation.
“Coastal land reclamation is a forward-looking approach to urban development,” says Architect Ian Fulgar, the principal architect of Fulgar Architects. It allows cities to preserve valuable ecosystems and resources from urban sprawl by expanding spaces without encroaching on existing natural land. More importantly for architects, urban planners, and modern city dwellers, it presents an opportunity to have purpose-built urban environments specifically designed to meet their needs.
“Architects and urban planners can design sustainable and efficient infrastructure with a blank canvas, incorporating the latest technologies and best practices in urban planning. This approach can lead to more resilient and adaptive cities capable of mitigating the effects of climate change and other environmental challenges,” adds Architect Fulgar.
Cities that lead coastal land reclamation
Singapore, Dubai, and Hong Kong, says Architect Fulgar, are some of the world’s most notable cities with impressive urban reclamation projects. “Not only have they transformed their respective landscapes but also captured global attention,” he says.
Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay are testaments to the city-state’s commitment to innovation and sustainability. The former is a luxury integrated resort famed for transforming Singapore’s coastline and city skyline, whereas the latter is a spectacularly unique horticultural destination that combines art, science, and nature. These reclaimed land developments further boost the country’s international reputation and real estate value around the area.
For some parts of the United Arab Emirates, coastal land reclamation has significantly changed its geography. Dubai, which has completely transformed into an ultramodern city, features ambitious projects now known as some of the most recognizable developments in the world like Palm Jumeirah and The World. “They have reshaped the coastline and established the city as a leader in innovative development, significantly elevating Dubai’s real estate value and worldwide interest,” says Architect Fulgar.