Because human population and socioeconomic activity are both increasingly concentrated in cities, an improved understanding of the environmental consequences of urbanization is needed. A 41-year annual time series of direct material flows was compiled for Singapore, representing a case of fast, export-driven industrialization. Results show that the spectacular economic growth of Singapore by a factor of 20 was associated with a similar expansion of domestic material consumption (DMC). DMC remained closely coupled to economic activity, increasing from below 4 tonnes per capita annually in 1962 to more than 50 tonnes annually in 2000. Despite economic structural changes and a growing service sector, no significant improvements in overall material productivity have been observed.