Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chinese nail houses

Buildings like this dot the growing urban landscape in China. Developers have coined a term for them - nail houses - because they stand out like nails stuck in wood that cannot be pounded down. Although they are not the only examples in Chongqing (see 8th image), the best known hold-outs may be a couple whose house (2nd image) eventually stood on a plateau as a construction company excavated several stories into the ground for a shopping mall. Rather than vacate like the 280 other households, the owners hung a banner that read "Citizens legal private property will not be infringed upon," and took to the courts. A 3-year mediation resulted in compensation that was less than they had hoped for, a similar-sized apartment downtown, and the demolition in 2007 of the house that had been in their family for generations.

The owner of a house in Chaoyang District, Beijing (7th image), did not accept the offer that his 229 neighbors took 8 years ago, and is now in the position of pleading with authorities to compensate him so that he can evacuate from the middle of traffic, which bottlenecks from 8 lanes to 2 at his property. The owner of the last building at a construction site in Hefei, Anhui province (5th image) also wants more adequate compensation.

Buildings with outside walls showing that they were once connected to others (4th and 9th images) now stand alone in a new shopping district in Changsha, Hunan Province. A house owned by a "strong old woman" who runs a sugar cane distribution business out of the kitchen (6th image) sits on a corner in Shanghai surrounded by a high-rise complex. Another (3rd image) still stands solitary on a flattened plot as skyscrapers loom on Beijing's horizon.

Although it sat alone on a razed 63,000 sq. meter plot in central Shanghai, one remarkable house (1st image) escaped demolition by virtue of being historical. It had been built
in the 1920s by 2 brothers who kept tigers, snakes, and anteaters in the garden; crocodiles in the pond; and 10 horses in the stable. The building became offices for a middle school, received its historic designation in the 1990s, and was slated in 2009 to be moved 53M on rails so it could remain standing.

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