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Environment / Climate change

China's "nail houses": the most stubborn buildings in the world

When construction workers built a brand new road in China’s Zhejiang province in 2012, they hit a small snag. In the path of the highway stood a building where two occupants had refused to leave, until they received compensation from the local government.


And so the workers simply built around it; a few months later, the couple settled with the municipal government, and the house was demolished.The photo above shows the house before it was torn down, sitting placidly in the middle of the new road and rendering it practically unusable. 

The building was what the Chinese call a “dingzihu” or “nail house”: a building in the way of a new development whose occupants or owners won’t budge, like a stubborn nail in a plank of wood.

The People’s Republic has only recently begun to allow private land ownership among its citizens, which may explain the stubbornness of those who don’t want to move out of developers’ way. The country’s first private property law, established in 2007, makes it illegal for the government to seize land unless it’s in the public interest; this has given nail house occupiers more of a leg to stand on. 

In this image, you can see where even adjoining buildings were demolished around the Zhejiang building, while it sat, refusing to move: 

Another example is the house below, seen among the rubble of other demolished buildings in Changzhou:

It belongs to 75-year-old Yao Baohua, who refused to move out of the way of a huge new development. 

In Yangji, a village in Guangzhou, other residents dug deep ditches around nail houses owned by their neighbours, to force them to move out so the development could go ahead:

Most nail houses seem to be removed in the end – but they’re a useful reminder that even in China, mass developments aren’t inevitable. Even if only for a short while, a single house is enough to stand in the way of an entire new city. 

Images: Getty.
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