China’s Nail Houses

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Words by Billie Jenkins Above Image Reuters below images Peter Bialobrzseski

Last year the image of a six storey home, which once sat in a row of attached houses but now stood alone, plonked in the middle of a motorway, went viral. It is the most famous example of the Chinese ’nail houses’, homes to owners who simply refuse to budge in the face of the large developments happening on there doorstep, like stubborn nails sticking out in landscapes where all else has been razed to the ground or built up in a violently different style. They offer a satisfying two fingers to developers and their money, reminding us the value of home can be worth more than a handsome pay check. They also make hilarious internet viewing.

Photographer Peter Bialobrzseski has explored the phenomenon in China, where property laws are particularly forgiving to those wish to literally dig their heels in the dirt. Often shoddily built, the contrasts between the remains of a neighbourhood and its modern surroundings are fascinating. Bialobrzseski states “the series appreciates the urge for people to hang on to their original homes”, a sense of belonging we can all appreciate, yet in practice often resulting in surreal landscapes and seemingly unliveable results. Whether you delve into the world of nail houses through the Bialobrzseski’s book or just hazard into google for a few moments the idea of placing a space above other comforts and a peaceful life is a really thought provoking concept.

 

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