Nail houses

In China, nail houses are older properties that stand alone amid new property development projects. They belong to owners who have stood their ground and resisted demolition. A few homeowners have won their fights against the developers, but most have lost. Such nail houses have become powerful symbols of resistance to the headlong rush of world’s fastest-growing major economy.

The dramatic conflict represented here concerns the tension between progress or modernisation and slower and more traditional forms; it is a conflict over how environments are valued: for their human qualities; or for their financial value.

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edited 29 November, 2015 by Allan Parsons

Associated Terms

The dramatic conflict is the persistent tension, the driving force, that produces the content of the story. According to Robert McKee (1999: 210), “Nothing moves forward in a story except through conflict.”

The dramatic conflict might be described as equivalent to the nub of the problem in design conventions or the striking opportunity the designer identifies from research.

Dramatic conflict can be seen as a struggle or contest, bringing into view an agonistic conception of narrative, in which protagonist and antagonist are engaged in a prolonged contestation.


Austin, T. (2012). Culture-led city regeneration: design methodologies. In: Cumulus. Helsinki. Available from [Accessed 3 February 2014].

McKee, R. (1999) Story: substance, structure, style and the principles of screenwriting. London: Methuen


edited 24 June, 2016 by Allan Parsons