The Abundance and Scarcity of Sand

— symposium Atelier NL

“Remove from our lives everything that depends on sand and our world would look very different. We would have no glass, no computer chips, we would have no buildings. We’re just not aware of how important sand is to our daily lives.”              

- Michael Welland, geologist and sand expert

'The Abundance and Scarcity of Sand' is a symposium focused on the critical discussion of sand as one of the most quickly disappearing natural resources in the world. Every year, we remove billions of tons of sand from beaches, rivers, oceans and land, and lock it away in our infrastructure and technologies. This has resulted in what experts are now calling a global sand scarcity. Hosted by Atelier NL, this symposium invites artists, designers, scientists, environmentalists, and the local community to participate in both lectures and in-depth conversation regarding the environmental challenges and potential solutions surrounding sand.


We dedicate this symposium to the memory of Michael Welland (1946-2017), British geologist and author of the award-winning book ‘Sand’: A Journey Through Science and the Imagination', who had a profound poetic understanding of life and the natural world. His passion for sand inspired this very symposium. His spirit will never leave us and neither will his words.


The Abundance & Scarcity of Sand 

– Symposium at DDW 2017

Hosted by Atelier NL and MU Artspace, keynote speaker Denis Delestrac, award-winning filmmaker, and director of 'Sand Wars' (2013), kicked off the conversation in our very first sand symposium. The lecture that Michael Welland had prepared for the evening was read to the group in his honor. Additionally, curator, artist, and community developer Jacqueline Heerema of Satellietgroep shared her perspective on the importance of sand along the Dutch coastline.

The event then culminated into an interactive panel discussion in which the public was welcome to participate. Inclided in the panel was Denis Delestrac, Jacqueline Heerema (Satellietgroep), Winy Maas (MVRDV), Lonny van Ryswyck (Atelier NL), Mindert de Vries (Deltares/Waddenacademie), Winy Maas (MVRDV), and Marcus Fairs (Deezen). As editor-in-chief of Dezeen and as a 2017 DDW ambassador, Marcus Fairs is the leader of the 'Good Design for a Bad World' initiative, which celebrates designers who are addressing major global challenges. Sand scarcity is a serious problem with potentially far-reaching consequences not only for our planet and its ecology but for our economy and society.

This intensive symposium brought together scientists, designers, and the public to discuss the ubiquitous everyday material of sand and how it impacts our lives at every scale. Angelique Spaninks (director of MU) graciously hosted the evening, initiating the important and inclusive dialogue surrounding sand.