Manufactured Landscapes II and the Nail House

Edward Burtynsky (Manufactured Landscapes) was at Queen’s this evening and presented a number of his photos and discussed his goals in seeking out and visually documenting the world’s industrial landscapes.  Unlike his documentary, he presentation didn’t focus on China and including more recent work in the Alberta Tar Sands…he also spoke quite a bit more than he did in his video.

He finished off the presentation with probably one of the most striking
photos regarding contemporary urban development in China (in my opinion, at least) and fortunately made clear that he wasn’t the photographer for that one (although he probably could have gotten away with it).  He didn’t mention the name of the house (nor that it wasn’t in Shanghai, but rather Chongqing), which was surprising given it’s notoriety in 2007 as the ‘coolest nail house’.

The term “nail house” (dingzi hu 钉子户) is not directed specifically at this particular house but rather was coined as a term to describe a dwelling belonging to a person who has refused to relocate to make room for a new development.  Often they are holding out for higher settlement compensation – but sometimes, in the case of older residents, they just don’t want to leave.  The developers will often begin construction in absence of settlement, choosing instead just to dig around the property in question creating a nailesque structure on the landscape while waiting for the owners to settle.

This particular nail house in Changsha didn’t settle and now is permanently part of the plaza.

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