team of Chinese engineers has managed to ‘walk’ an 85-year-old Shanghai
building to safety and a new home, using robotic legs.
The nearly century-old education centre, in Shanghai’s eastern Huangpu district, was successfully lifted off its concrete foundations, hoisted on to a network of robotic legs – known as the ‘walking machine’, and moved carefully to its new resting spot 62m away.
The aim was to preserve the old building, once the Lagena Primary School, built in 1935 by the municipality of Shanghai’s former French Concession. It took 18 days to complete after breaking ground in mid-October.
removal of the structure will make way for a new commercial and office complex,
while the former learning hub will start its second life as a ‘centre for
heritage protection and cultural education’, according to CNN.
Lan Wuji, a senior supervisor to the project and a chief technical advisor at Shanghai Evolution Shift, the company which developed the walking machine, said the project essentially gave the building ‘legs’.
The old school was lifted onto a series of supporting structures. These legs, which are split into two groups, move up and down, rising and falling at opposite extremes, much like a pair of legs mid-gait, Lan said.
Shanghai has recently scrambled to save old structures from demolition. In 2003 the city saved the Shanghai Concert Hall from destruction when it moved the giant performance centre more than 60m to make way for an elevated highway.
Another 90-year-old building, a 1930s era building in the Hongkou district, was moved to a new home in 2018.
However, the Lagena School relocation has been the largest and most difficult to date. According to Lan, the team was concerned that the school structure’s unique T-shape would mean lateral forces applied to the structure during its short journey would be too intense.
Lan told CNN that in nearly a quarter of a century of structure relocation, the Lagena project was the only instance of moving a building in a ‘curve’.