Nail Houses And The Stay-Down City

  • In the most recent issue of Monu Magazine, Human Wu — who coincidentally might have the coolest name in history — writes about the phenomenon of nail houses in China. A nail house is a Chinese term that relates to any building where an owner stubbornly refuses to vacate his or her property in the face of a large development that is proposed to occur in its place. In the case that the developer can not buy the owner out or coerce them through other means to leave, the development usually gets carried forward, with design alterations to work around the building. If this occurs, the building has official become a ‘nail house’, and a whole slew of these charmingly absurd buildings can be found throughout China and elsewhere.

    The title image was blogged about heavily in 2007 when a large-scaled redevelopment in an inner city neighbourhood of Chongqing encountered a nail house contender in Wu Ping and her husband  Yang Wu. The image speaks to a double-barrelled determination. A determination on the part of the homeowners to stay put, and a determination of the developers to go forward with the development, regardless of the very inconveniently placed nail house.

    The Pop-Up City and other blogs take great care in documenting ephemeral and fleeting happenings of a city — modular systems, flexible spaces, mobile infrastructures etc. — and this is not without merit, but how many blogs take interest in the exact opposite — the Stay-Down City, dinosaurs of another era that resist the tumultuous changes of the modern era without resorting to the common strategy of museumification, disneyfication, or any other sort of kitsch. If any such blog devoted to the Stay-Down City exists that you know of, please share the information in the comment space. Otherwise, consider this a call to arms for such a blog.