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The Idealog guide to rad reclamation projects

New York City

Much of the most populous city in the United States is built on reclaimed land. Up until well into the 20th century, as much as 80 percent of the Big Apple’s refuse was dumped directly into the sea – and things like dirt, rock and rubble helped “fatten up” the city as it piled up, rose to the surface and expanded shorelines. For example, Ellis Island is built on rubble displaced from the construction of the city’s extensive subway network. FDR Drive is built on rubble that was shipped over from England in World War II. The extensive reclamation work is even continuing today – Battery Park is built on dirt excavated from the original World Trade Center.

Tokyo Bay

Large sections of Tokyo Bay have been built on reclaimed land – work that has been ongoing since the 19th century. Considering Tokyo is one of the most densely-populated places in the world and much of Japan’s existing land is unbuildable at present because it’s so steep and mountainous, one could argue the development has come out of necessity. Regardless, it has also helped Tokyo become one of the world’s main business centres.

Dubai artificial islands

Much has been written about the apparent marvel of Dubai’s numerous artificial islands – as well as their problems. For one, they’re “sinking into the sea.” Real estate on the islands is also exorbitantly expensive, meaning it’s been tough finding people willing to pony up for the privilege of living on a series of artificial islands shaped like a palm tree. But things are starting to improve, and more of the islands are planned. If you have money to burn…

Nigeria’s planned city

Eko Atlantic (officially known as Nigeria International Commerce City) is a planned city in the Nigerian state of Lagos that is to be built on reclaimed land in the Atlantic Ocean. One of Africa’s most ambitious construction projects, forecasts are for the city to have about 250,000 residents and 150,000 daily commuters. Construction is ongoing.


It may be one of the world’s most famous cities and tourist attractions, but the sad reality is that Venice is sinking – and sea level rise is only making the problem worse. Unless a solution is found, odds are that the famed Italian city synonymous with romance will become a modern-day Atlantis.

Yellow Sea and East Sea (Sea of Japan) coastline

It’s estimated that up to 65 percent of the tidal flats around the Yellow Sea in China, North Korea and South Korea have been reclaimed. However, the reclamation has had a seriously negative impact on wildlife, particularly shorebirds – threatening ecosystems in the region. The same goes for the East Sea (also known as the Sea of Japan), where reclamation has put bird species at risk.

Rason Daehung Trading Co. Ltd. in Rason, North Korea / Ben Mack


Construction has started on a US$2 billion (NZ$2.95 billion) project to reclaim six hectares of shoreline so that more luxury apartments can be built for the thousands of millionaires expected to move to Monaco within the next decade. The project will see the completion of about 120 luxury homes that will be more expensive than even the priciest spots in London and New York.

Wellington Harbour

A bit closer to home, reclamation of Wellington Harbour started wayyyyyyy back in the 1850s. In fact, much of Willis Street, Mercer Street, Chew’s Lane, Lambton Quay, Jervois Quay, Waterloo Quay, Railway Wharf and more are all built on reclaimed land – adding up to well over 100 acres in total. To help people get a better idea of just how much of the area is built on reclaimed land, in 1976 the Historic Places Trust placed 14 plaques along the original shoreline.

Auckland Waterfront

Viaduct Basin, Victoria Park, Commercial Bay, Freemans Bay, Westhaven Marina, Princes Wharf – all are on reclaimed land. And let’s be honest: Auckland wouldn’t quite be the economic powerhouse it is without them. But the question, of course, is this: could the America’s Cup lead to more development on reclaimed land?

Time will sail… er, tell.

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