85-year-old building in China just ‘walked’ to a new location

By Backend Office, Desk Reporter
Walking Building Image
The elementary school 'walked' 62 meters to make way for a news complex

Residents in the Shanghai city of China passing through the eastern Huangpu district of the city may have stumbled upon an odd sight, a “walking” building.

An 85-year-old elementary school has been lifted off the ground completely and moved using a new technology called the “walking machine.”

The “Walk”

According to Lan Wuji, chief technical supervisor of the project, engineers attached nearly 200 mobile supports under the five-story building in the city’s latest attempt to save historic structures.

The supports look like robotic legs. They are divided into two groups that rise up and down alternately, imitating the human stride. Attached sensors help monitor how the building moves forward, said Mr. Lan whose company called Shanghai Evolution Shift developed the latest technology in 2018.

“It’s like giving the building crutches so it can stand up and then walk,” he said.

Workers had to dig around the building first to install the 198 mobile supports in the underlying spaces, Lan explained. The robotic “legs” were then extended upward after the building’s pillars were shortened, raising the building before moving forward.

The building was rotated 21 degrees over the course of 18 days and shifted 62 meters (203 feet) away to its original position. The old school building is scheduled to become a center for preservation of heritage and cultural education.

The project represents the first time this “walking machine” technique has been used to relocate a historic building in Shanghai, the government statement said.

The Lagena Primary School was established in 1935 by the municipal board of Shanghai ‘s former French Concession, according to a statement from the Huangpu district government. The building was relocated In order to make way for a new commercial and office complex, which will be completed by 2023.

Restoration efforts

China’s rapid development has seen many historic buildings razed to clear land for gleaming skyscrapers and office buildings in recent decades. But there has been growing concern about the architectural heritage lost in the country as a result of demolition.

New preservation and restoration campaigns have been initiated by some cities, including, on occasion, the use of innovative technology that enable old buildings to be moved rather than demolished.

Shanghai has a track record of old buildings being relocated. The 1930-built Shanghai Concert Hall was relocated over 66 meters in 2003 to make room for an elevated highway. As part of a local refurbishment in 2013, the Zhengguanghe Building, a six-story factory, also from the 1930s was then moved 38 meters.

More recently, in 2018, the city relocated a 90-year-old building in Hongkou district, in what was then considered to be Shanghai’s most complicated relocation project to date.