These extreme examples of urban development will make you thank your lucky stars that you live in a property not bordered by a highway or surrounded by a moat. Unless, that is, you live in a castle and the moat is a key feature.
There are different ways to describe those who have decided to stay put. People who refuse to accept a substantial monetary offer are sometimes termed holdouts. Or, if you’re a real estate developer, they’re probably referred to as pests. But it’s hard to blame people for occasionally making a stand against commercial developments. After all, bricks and mortar have an extraordinary emotional value to some that simply cannot be bought.
In China, there are those who refuse to move to pave the way for new construction projects. These residences are called “nail houses,” an expression conceived in the 21st century. It seems that the times we live in require a label for the growing number of examples of such resistance. According to Business Insider, they are so named because “they stick out like a nail that can’t be hammered down.” Chinese law dictates that buildings cannot be demolished without consent from owners.
17. The small house that inspired a big film
The Edith Macefield House was the inspiration for Up, the animated film that stole hearts everywhere. Subsequently, the 116-year-old Seattle property is now a tourist attraction. However, in 2008 the house was left in Macefield’s will to a man associated with the surrounding development. Although the dwelling looks picture-perfect from the outside, its interior is apparently in a bad state. And there are rumors that it will be demolished soon – but at least there is some comfort to be found in celluloid immortality.
16. Piggy in the middle
This house in Melbourne, Australia, was held onto by its owner and has now been incorporated into the new construction’s design. The view from the road is consequently one of old meets new, although that probably wasn’t quite what the architects of either property had in mind at the planning stage.
15. Readymade roundabout
An old couple in Wenling, China, refused to budge and take the money offered by the authorities for their home. The government, therefore, felt that the only option was to build a road around the house. Even though this living arrangement looks distinctly hazardous, measures have apparently been taken to “guarantee safety,” according to China Daily.
14. Divided down the middle
This house in Toronto, Canada, was apparently split in half during the 1950s. The owner of one side of the property reportedly decided to sell, while their neighbor disagreed. And this resulting piece of architecture is certainly striking, although it looks a little lonely now.
13. Roadkill risk
One family of Chinese farmers are currently hemmed in on all sides by highways. Their little rural oasis has become smaller and smaller as their neighbors have taken the compensation offered and left. The punchline to “What happened when the chicken crossed the road?” might not have such a happy ending in this case, however.
12. Claustrophobic clash
This holdout on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., is overshadowed by a building that towers four stories higher. And, surrounded by glass on all sides, these brick structures are a glaring anomaly on this street in the American capital.
11. Not budging
These homeowners in Guangzhou, China, forced authorities to build around them. People have reportedly responded to the image online, writing that the owners have been gifted a 360-degree view of the road. Hopefully the residents are equally amused.
10. Like a bridge over troubled rooftops
It’s a basic human desire to want a roof over your head. But these unfortunate homeowners now have more than one, as they find themselves living under a bridge. The house is located beneath the Allmendstrasse overpass in Switzerland. And the residents are hemmed in by passing traffic on all sides thanks to a road out the front, too, for that all-important rush hour surround sound. Still, maybe the bridge shaved some time off their commute?
9. Keeping their home and their morals intact
When a developer wanted to build row upon row of luxury villas in Suzhou, China, one resident refused. The neighboring community clearly didn’t have such strong objections, as the little house is now a last bastion of opposition.
8. Slim pickings
Mary Cook’s New York home is nowadays squeezed in between two more modern – and far larger – buildings. Upon her death, the house became the Uptown Gallery, showcasing famous artworks. Then, in 1941 it was divided into separate condos. Nowadays, the plucky building still stands tall, if only figuratively.
7. Playing dirty
Mrs Wu Ping reportedly didn’t have a choice in the matter; developers essentially tried to dig her out of her house in Chongqing, China. She had just completed renovations on her home but then faced the prospect of relocation. A powerful visual symbol of resistance, this marooned residence has subsequently raised eyebrows both nationally and internationally, thanks to Wu Ping’s willingness to talk to the media.
6. Digging in their heels
The Speigelhalters wouldn’t sell their jeweler’s on Mile End Road in London, England. So the developers started construction anyway, in the hope that the store’s owners would give in eventually. But they never did, and as a result the architects had to incorporate the shop into the building’s botched design. The Speigelhalters played the long game, and when they finally left in 1982, the premises became a liquor store. However, the store is reportedly scheduled for demolition.
5. Island view included
The tiny figure in the bottom right of the above image is Zhao Xing, who is collecting dirty water by his home – or what’s left of it. This Chinese nail house in Kunming is unique in that it is now surrounded by a muddy moat, apparently created by those who wish to force the family to leave.
4. Small and stuck in the past
When the movement to modernize swept Nanning, China, one homeowner didn’t accept the money offered. As a result, their property is now situated right in the middle of a road, with buildings rising up around it. It’s an image that highlights a clash of cultures and the stark realities of urbanization.
3. Even in death
This tomb in Taiyuan, China, is not an example of a “nail house,” but a “nail grave.” For one family, their ancestors’ final resting place was perhaps, well, not so final. The family have fought for the rights of their deceased relatives, eventually agreeing with authorities that the graves will be relocated. And they have even consulted a feng shui expert to ascertain the best day to move.
2. A runway runs through it
This Japanese family have kept hold of their farm but now have an airport in their backyard. Narita was once a farming community with more than 1,000 residents. But when some decided to stay put, the authorities became aggressive, even enlisting the police to use physical force in order to remove families. The airport opened in 1978, but more than a dozen people had lost their lives in the fight to stay on their own land. And during the ensuing years, another runway has been added, encroaching ever further on the farmland.
1. There are some things that money can’t buy
Macy’s wanted to buy this crucial corner for their flagship New York department store in the early 1900s. But apparently their business rivals, who wished to retain the title of the world’s largest store themselves, asked a neighbor to purchase the lot so that Macy’s wouldn’t rob them of the honor. It didn’t work, though, and Macy’s just built around it instead. Macy’s later reached an agreement with the owners to begin advertising on the 5-story building, which is a workaround of sorts.