Architectural Art- Tunnel House



building- Tunnel House
location- Houston, Texas
date- 2004
style- Amorphic “Blobitecture”
construction- wooden tunnel through timber fame house
type- sculpture
architect- Dan Havel and Dean Ruck

Isn’t it great how creativity kicks in when times running out. Take for example this incredible and beautiful installation by artists Dan Havel and Dean Ruck a few months before this house was to be demolished…. I’m guessing they saw any opportunity to do something freaking crazy cool to a space that was going to be destroyed and turned this old house into a trippy wooden warp zone! More pics after the jump.(including whats at the end of the tunnel)
via hemmy
Pics via Kevin Omara, via

Posted in 04AF Curios, 04BE Wood, Amorphic \"Blobitecture\", House, Sculpture, Texas, Townscape | Leave a comment

Nail Houses- Changsha, Shenzhen, China.

above: high street chains loom over a gutsy nail house

above: high street chains loom over a gutsy nail house

above: at least the shop is unmissable to passers-by

above: at least the shop is unmissable to passers-by

above: ragged brickwork is a reminder of the demolition of previously connected buildings

above: ragged brickwork is a reminder of the demolition of previously connected buildings

This dilapidated shop/home sits continues to do business outside a sparkling, relatively modern-looking shopping centre in changsha city and the contrast between the two buildings is shocking. i don’t know much about this house but if you look at the first photo, there are a couple more old properties which also seem to have weathered the development storm. the photos themselves are from october 2007 so i’m unsure whether they held up for much longer and a search on google maps proved fruitless. read a translated article about the buildings here.

cai zhuxiang and zhang lianhao, shenzhen, china




above: ultimately an extremely expensive building sits alone in shenzhen
above: ultimately an extremely expensive building sits alone in shenzhen
In 2006, cai zhuxiang and zhang lianhao, proud and determined owners of this 7 storey building in luohu, shenzhen, were approached by local developers who were on a mission to convert the surrounding area into an extremely profitable financial centre. as you can see from the photos, the couple refused and their 10yr old building and the land beneath it became the focus of a bidding war. eventually developers made an offer they couldn’t refuse and in 2007 the couple gathered their belongings and moved on. although the final amount is unconfirmed, estimates point to compensation in the region of  between ¥10-20m (over us$1m). read more here.

fascinating stuff. there are plenty more of these properties to look at, a few of which are mentioned on boing boing here. you can also search for the word 钉子户 on google, or bing, (it means ‘nail house’) or just click here instead.


thanks to

Posted in 04AC Demolished, Changsha, Nail House, Shenzhen | Leave a comment

Nail House- austin spriggs, washington dc, u.s.a.

above: the house as it was in 2006, pre-shadows

above: the house as it was in 2006, pre-shadows

In 2006, austin spriggs was happily living in a house that would soon become a thorn in the side of local developers. such a thorn in fact that mr spriggs was offered more than $3m for the property in 2008 even though the property was previously only worth an estimated $200k. needless to say, he turned the offer down and then proceeded to take out a loan to convert the building into a pizza joint. as you can see, the building is absolutely dwarfed by the surrounding developments. read more here.

above: coming soon?

above: coming soon?



Posted in 05GB Renaissance Revival, House, Nail House | Leave a comment

Nail House- various farmers, narita airport, japan

above: narita's 2nd runway, dissected due to a defiant landowner - only the north end is usable

above: narita's 2nd runway, dissected due to a defiant landowner - only the north end is usable

In 1966 plans for a new airport were revealed by the japanese government, much to the annoyance of the public and especially those who owned the land upon which it was to be built. for the next 20 years a combination of regular (and sometimes fatal ) riots and defiant farmers who own land amongst the proposed runways forced developers to ditch the idea of a 3 runway airport. to this day, the middle of what was to be the 2nd runway is home to a farm and various smaller properties still sit around the terminals blocking construction of a 3rd runway. have a look around on google maps here. read more about the disputes here

Posted in Airport, Nail House, Narita | Leave a comment

Nail House- wu ping, chongqing, china


Perhaps the most famous nail house in history was situated on a huge mound of dirt in chonqing until april 2007, at which point it was demolished by exhausted developers after battling for 3 years and eventually parting with ¥1m. the house’s owner, mrs wu ping, was the only person from 241 properties who refused to leave when asked in 2004 in order to make way for a new shopping centre. she really dug her heels in and the story quickly spread around the world by way of the intertubes. there’s an interesting interview with mrs wu here. following some searching, see what i believe to be the site of wu ping’s old house here on google schnapps. 



Posted in 04AC Demolished, Chonqing, House, Nail House, Urban Renewal | Leave a comment

Nail house- Edith Macefield House

above: edith's mighty little house in ballard, seattle

above: edith's mighty little house in ballard, seattle


edith macefield’s brilliant little home in ballard as it’s the first example of a nail house i’d ever read about and really reminds me of carl friedriksen’s own abode. edith, who passed away last year, moved into this house in 1966 – long before the area’s construction boom – and since then had turned down numerous offers from developers wishing to build a complex on her land, the highest of which is rumoured to be $1m. the developers decided to build the complex anyway and surround the house with sharp, sleek, characterless surfaces. read more here and here. see edith’s house on google maps here (it’s an old shot and you can still see her blue car outside the property).

above: a publicity stunt for pixar's latest saw balloons attached to the house

above: a publicity stunt for pixar's latest saw balloons attached to the house

[source] (from

Posted in House, Nail House, Seattle | Leave a comment

Category Intro- Nail Houses

A nail house is a Chinese neologism for homes belonging to people (sometimes called “stubborn nails”) who refuse to make room for development, often in an attempt to negotiate a high price in exchange for selling out. The term, a pun coined by developers, refers to nails that are stuck in wood, and cannot be pounded down with a hammer.


above: carl friedrickson’s defiant ‘nail house’ in up [source]

near the start of up (pixar’s latest gold-plated effort) we come to learn that carl fredricksen’s house, or the land beneath it more specifically, is in demand by hungry developers due to its location amongst a sea of half-built, multistorey building projects, a fact that seems to make him all the more reluctant to let go of the nest he made with his late wife regardless of the offer slapped on the table. the result, until the house floats away at least, is the depressing but somehow uplifting landscape in the picture above. 

watching the film reminded me of a few very similar (but non-rendered) stubborn homeowner situations i’ve read about over the past couple of years, the rememberance of which resulted in me researching a fascinating and surprisingly common property (especially in china) i now know to be called a ‘nail house‘; so called as ‘they stick out like nails in an otherwise modernized environment’ and are hard to remove…

Historical background

The famous nail house in Chongqing

During most of the Communist era, private ownership of real property was abolished. The central government officially owned all real estate, and could in theory dictate who was entitled to control any piece of property according to national interests. Private citizens, therefore, did not have a legal right to keep their property if the government decided they should leave (although in practice, entitlements arose for various reasons). With a strengthening economy and the rise of free markets beginning in the late 1990s, private developers began building shopping malls, hotels, and other private developments in densely populated urban centers, which required displacing residents who lived on the land. Developers would typically offer relatively low compensation to the residents, reflecting the pre-development value of their properties or the cost of obtaining alternate housing elsewhere. Should residents resist, or try to take advantage of their bargaining position, powerful developers could persuade local officials and courts to order residents off the land. In other cases, residents would be arrested on false charges or thugs would be hired to scare away the residents.[1][3]

More recently, China has begun to accept private ownership of real estate, including the still-controversial notion that owners are free to earn money when their land becomes more valuable due to planned developments, or even simply not to sell. Discontent arose among the people over accusations of illegal land seizures by developers and corruption by complicit government officials.[4]

In March 2007, amidst widespread sentiment in favor of private ownership, China passed its first modern private property law.[5][6] The law prohibits government taking of land, except when it is in the public interest. The law strengthened the position of nail house owners, but did not entirely resolve whether making room for private commercial developments was a public interest that entitled the taking of land.[7]

A number of high-profile nail houses have received widespread attention in the Chinese press. In one famous case, one family among 280 others at the location of a six-story shopping mall under construction at the location of a former “snack street” in Chongqing refused for two years to vacate a home their family had inhabited for three generations.[6] Developers cut their power and water, and excavated a 10-meter deep pit around their home. [1][8] The owners broke into the construction site, reoccupied it, and flew a Chinese flag on top. Yang Wu, a local martial arts champion, made a staircase to their house out of nunchakus, and threatened to beat any authorities who attempted to evict him.[1] His wife, a restaurateur named Wu Ping who had planned to open a restaurant in the home’s ground floor, granted interviews and frequent press releases to generate publicity.[2] The owners turned down an offer of 3.5 million yuan (US$453,000), but eventually settled with the developers in 2007.[6]

In another example, a “nail house” remained in Changsha, even after a shopping mall was built around it, and now sits in a courtyard of the mall. [9] One owner in Shenzhen was paid between 10 and 20 million yuan (US $1.3 million to $2.7 million) for selling a seven-story building at the site of the future 439-meter (1,440 foot) Kingkey Finance Tower, that had cost him only 1 million yuan ($130,000) to build ten years before. The resident held out for months following an eviction order, and was subject to harassment and extortion attempts even after he reached a settlement.[10] Two other nail house owners held out against the Kingkey development.[11]

Media coverage
Nail houses have received an unusual degree of coverage in the Chinese Press. The Chongqing incident was initially called “coolest nail house in history” by a blogger,[8] after which the incident was picked up by major media throughout China, including state-run newspapers, and became a national sensation.[3] 85% of respondents to a poll on supported the couple rather than the developers.[6] Later, however, the Chinese government forbade newspapers from reporting on the event.[3][12][13] Another blogger, vegetable vendor Zhou Shuguang, traveled by train from his home in Hunan province to cover the incident, funded by donations from his readers. Writing under the pen name “zola”, Zhou interviewed the participants, as well as crowds that had gathered and others who claimed to have been evicted from their homes. He was popularly referred to as China’s first “citizen journalist” although his site was blocked as well.[14] Others defied the prohibition as well, including the Chinese edition of Sports Illustrated, which worked a subtle reference of the incident into a magazine cover.[15]

Analogies in other countries
State-run media have commented that the nail house phenomenon is not limited to China, mentioning that there have been similar hold-outs in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan. In particular they have cited families that refused to move even as the original and subsequent runway construction projects began around them for the Narita Airport outside of Tokyo, Japan.[16]

In the United States, private property is protected by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution from seizure by the government without “just compensation”. Under the concept of eminent domain, local and national government agencies are entitled to take private property for purposes in the public interest, but must offer owners compensation amounting to the value of the property. The United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the Republic of Ireland have a comparable process called compulsory purchase, and there are equivalent laws in Australia and South Africa. In Kelo v. City of New London, the United States Supreme Court held that the government is entitled to take land from private parties to give to private developers. The decision was widely unpopular, and spurred various states to enact laws prohibiting the practice. However, the practice is common in other states. As in China, the efforts generally begin with an offer by the private group or government agency to purchase the land, and only become a question of eminent domain if the parties cannot negotiate a purchase price. When eminent domain seizures do occur there are often disputes over the value of the property, and whether it should fully compensate the landowner for the holdout value of the land.

In Fiction
The 1942 American book The Little House tells the story of a woman whose house becomes a nail house through the passage of time.

1.^ a b c d Kent Ewing (March 31, 2007). “The coolest nail house in history”. Asia Times. Retrieved on 2007-11-12.
2.^ a b Clifford Coonan (March 31, 2007). “A Chinese man’s home is his castle: kung fu master keeps bailiffs at bay in the siege of Chongqing”. The Independent. Retrieved on 2007-11-13.
3.^ a b c “In China, Fight Over Development Creates a Star”. New York times. March 26, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-11-13.
4.^ “Woman defies Chinese developers”. BBC. March 23, 2007.
5.^ Wu Zhong (May 14, 2007). “China’s rough ideological transition”. Asia Times. Retrieved on 2007-11-12.
6.^ a b c d “Nail house in Chongqing demolished”. China Daily. April 3, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-11-13.
7.^ Zhang Rui (March 23, 2007). “First Test Case for Newly Approved Property Law?”. Retrieved on 2007-11-13.
8.^ a b Jeremy Goldkorn (March 22, 2007). “Property rights: the coolest nail house in history”. Danwei. Retrieved on 2007-11-12.
9.^ “Day In Pictures”. San Francisco Chronicle. 2007-11-13. Retrieved on 2007-11-13.
10.^ “Nail house owner receives millions of yuan in compensation”. China Daily. September 30, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-11-13.
11.^ Catherine Jiang (November 2, 2007). “Chinese homeowners nail down their rights”. Asia Times. Retrieved on 2007-11-13.
12.^ Xiao Qiang (March 24, 2007). “Chinese Government Forbids Media Reporting of The “Nailhouse” Story”. China Digital Times. Retrieved on 2007-11-13.
13.^ Geoffrey York (March 26, 2007). “Nail house tests China’s new property rights law”. Scripps News. Retrieved on 2007-11-13.
14.^ “Interview with “citizen reporter” Zhou Shuguang, aka Zola”. Interfax. June 22, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-11=13.
15.^ Jonathan Ansfield (2009-06-12). “Sports Illustrated Nods At The Nailhouse”. Retrieved on 2007-11-13.
16.^ “Nail households in Japan delay Narita Airport construction more than ten years”. CCTV. April 4, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-11-13.  – see google translation

Posted in House, Nail House, Townscape | Leave a comment

US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive

US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive

US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive

The US government is looking at expanding a pioneering scheme in Flint, one of the poorest US cities, which involves razing entire districts and returning the land to nature Photo: GETTY

The government looking at expanding a pioneering scheme in Flint, one of the poorest US cities, which involves razing entire districts and returning the land to nature.

Local politicians believe the city must contract by as much as 40 per cent, concentrating the dwindling population and local services into a more viable area.
The radical experiment is the brainchild of Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint.

Having outlined his strategy to Barack Obama during the election campaign, Mr Kildee has now been approached by the US government and a group of charities who want him to apply what he has learnt to the rest of the country.

Mr Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes.

Most are former industrial cities in the “rust belt” of America’s Mid-West and North East. They include Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Memphis.

In Detroit, shattered by the woes of the US car industry, there are already plans to split it into a collection of small urban centres separated from each other by countryside.

“The real question is not whether these cities shrink – we’re all shrinking – but whether we let it happen in a destructive or sustainable way,” said Mr Kildee. “Decline is a fact of life in Flint. Resisting it is like resisting gravity.”

Karina Pallagst, director of the Shrinking Cities in a Global Perspective programme at the University of California, Berkeley, said there was “both a cultural and political taboo” about admitting decline in America.

“Places like Flint have hit rock bottom. They’re at the point where it’s better to start knocking a lot of buildings down,” she said.

Flint, sixty miles north of Detroit, was the original home of General Motors. The car giant once employed 79,000 local people but that figure has shrunk to around 8,000.

Unemployment is now approaching 20 per cent and the total population has almost halved to 110,000.

The exodus – particularly of young people – coupled with the consequent collapse in property prices, has left street after street in sections of the city almost entirely abandoned.

In the city centre, the once grand Durant Hotel – named after William Durant, GM’s founder – is a symbol of the city’s decline, said Mr Kildee. The large building has been empty since 1973, roughly when Flint’s decline began.

Regarded as a model city in the motor industry’s boom years, Flint may once again be emulated, though for very different reasons.

But Mr Kildee, who has lived there nearly all his life, said he had first to overcome a deeply ingrained American cultural mindset that “big is good” and that cities should sprawl – Flint covers 34 square miles.

He said: “The obsession with growth is sadly a very American thing. Across the US, there’s an assumption that all development is good, that if communities are growing they are successful. If they’re shrinking, they’re failing.”

But some Flint dustcarts are collecting just one rubbish bag a week, roads are decaying, police are very understaffed and there were simply too few people to pay for services, he said.

If the city didn’t downsize it will eventually go bankrupt, he added.

Flint’s recovery efforts have been helped by a new state law passed a few years ago which allowed local governments to buy up empty properties very cheaply.

They could then knock them down or sell them on to owners who will occupy them. The city wants to specialise in health and education services, both areas which cannot easily be relocated abroad.

The local authority has restored the city’s attractive but formerly deserted centre but has pulled down 1,100 abandoned homes in outlying areas.

Mr Kildee estimated another 3,000 needed to be demolished, although the city boundaries will remain the same.

Already, some streets peter out into woods or meadows, no trace remaining of the homes that once stood there.

Choosing which areas to knock down will be delicate but many of them were already obvious, he said.

The city is buying up houses in more affluent areas to offer people in neighbourhoods it wants to demolish. Nobody will be forced to move, said Mr Kildee.

“Much of the land will be given back to nature. People will enjoy living near a forest or meadow,” he said.

Mr Kildee acknowledged that some fellow Americans considered his solution “defeatist” but he insisted it was “no more defeatist than pruning an overgrown tree so it can bear fruit again”.

By Tom Leonard in Flint, Michigan
Published: 6:30PM BST 12 Jun 2009

Posted in 01A USA, Urban Renewal | Leave a comment

Style History- Plateresque Architecture

plateresque [Span.,=silversmith], earliest phase of Spanish Renaissance architecture and decoration, in the early 16th cent. Its richness of effect was primarily based upon the work of the Italian Renaissance, mingled, however, with surviving Moorish and late Gothic design. In characteristic Spanish decorative spirit, structure received little emphasis, while doorways and other details displayed clusters of ornament against a foil of bare wall space. Columns in candelabrum form were among the favorite motifs, as were pilasters enriched with arabesque reliefs and topped with free Corinthianesque capitals, columns with bracketed capitals, heraldic escutcheons, and fancifully twisted scrolls. It was in the plateresque period that Spanish workers in wrought iron reached an unlimited technical skill, translating Renaissance motifs into terms of metalwork to form the superb rejas of the churches (see rejería ). Among the great plateresque buildings are the town hall at Seville, the university at Alcalá de Henares, and the cathedral at Granada by Diego de Siloe. From the latter half of the 16th cent. a much more classical and restrained form of Renaissance design supplanted the plateresque.The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Copyright 2008 Columbia University Press
The earliest phase of Renaissance architecture in Spain is usually called the Plateresque (from platero, “silversmith”) because its rich ornament resembles silversmith’s work. There has always been a long tradition in Spain of elaborate decoration, explained in part as an influence from Moorish art.
Granada Cathedral
Posted in 04AD Style History, Church, Plateresque, Spain | Leave a comment

Style History- Cinquecento Architecture

It was the result of the revival of classic architecture known as Renaissance, but the change had commenced already a century earlier, in the works of Ghiberti and Donatello in sculpture, and of Brunelleschi and Alberti in architecture.

Posted in 04AD Style History, Cinquecento, Italy | Leave a comment