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Visual News
Visual News

The Odd Case of Chinese Nail Houses

Visual News
Visual News

A quickly spreading phenomenon in the construction world has given new meaning to the phrase “standing your ground.” In China, where urban areas are among the most rapidly growing in the world, a strange fad called the “nail house” has taken root.

Residents take advantage of a relatively new property-owning law in China—which, in 2007, prohibited the government seizure of private land except for cases of public interest—by refusing to leave their houses when a new development rolls into town. Often, the homeowners are bribed or otherwise persuaded to move, but in extreme cases, developers are forced to build around them. The resulting nail houses, a term coined to reflect the owners' tenacity, rise stubbornly through the urban sprawl, bisecting busy highways and tucked neatly into shopping complexes.

Though one house interrupting a busy intersection may seem like the antithesis of a public interest victory, many developers shy away from aggressively pursuing these areas, for fear of appearing too oppressive in the media. That’s how, even in cases where the dwellings are of little real use to anyone (many nail house owners don’t actually spend much time there), such structures are able to withstand the years.

Though Chinese nail houses have recently seen heavy exposure, the concept of a nail house is not new, nor uniquely Chinese. In Washington, D.C., Austin Spriggs was offered $3 million for his house (actually worth about $200,000) as a part of a development. Spriggs refused, then took out a loan and ended up converting his home into a pizzeria as a sleek new office building rose up around it. Nail houses have even made their way into Disney movies: Before he had the brilliant idea to take to the air, Carl from Disney-Pixar’s Up posed the same type of stubborn rebellion now seen in numerous urban areas in China.

Primary photo courtesy of Visual News. 

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History
The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

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Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
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This Just In
For $61, You Can Become a Co-Owner of This 13th-Century French Castle
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images

A cultural heritage restoration site recently invited people to buy a French castle for as little as $61. The only catch? You'll be co-owning it with thousands of other donors. Now thousands of shareholders are responsible for the fate of the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers in western France, and there's still room for more people to participate.

According to Mashable, the dilapidated structure has a rich history. Since its construction in the 13th century, the castle has been invaded by foreign forces, looted, renovated, and devastated by a fire. Friends of Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers, a small foundation formed in 2016 in an effort to conserve the overgrown property, want to see the castle restored to its former glory.

Thanks to a crowdfunding collaboration with the cultural heritage restoration platform Dartagnans, the group is closer than ever to realizing its mission. More than 9000 web users have contributed €51 ($61) or more to the campaign to “adopt” Mothe-Chandeniers. Now that the original €500,000 goal has been fulfilled, the property’s new owners are responsible for deciding what to do with their purchase.

“We intend to create a dedicated platform that will allow each owner to monitor the progress of works, events, project proposals and build a real collaborative and participatory project,” the campaign page reads. “To make an abandoned ruin a collective work is the best way to protect it over time.”

Even though the initial goal has been met, Dartagnans will continue accepting funds for the project through December 25. Money collected between now and then will be used to pay for various fees related to the purchase of the site, and new donors will be added to the growing list of owners.

The shareholders will be among the first to see the cleared-out site during an initial visit next spring. The rest of the public will have to wait until it’s fully restored to see the final product.

[h/t Mashable]

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