China ‘WALKS’ 85-year-old heritage building to new location with robotic legs

Residents passing through the city’s eastern Huangpu district were in for a surprise earlier this month as they sighted a moving building in their area.

The building was an 85-year-old primary school that has been entirely lifted off the ground and relocated with the help of new technology dubbed as the “walking machine.”

The walking building is an effort to preserve historic structures of the city.

Lan Wuji, chief technical supervisor of the project, said that engineers attached nearly 200 mobile supports under the five-storey building. The mobile supports worked like robotic legs which are split into two groups, alternately rising up and down, imitating the human walk.

The sensors attached to the legs help control how the building moves forward.

Wuji Company Shanghai Evolution Shift developed the new technology in 2018. Speaking to CNN, he said the process was like giving the building crutches so it can stand up and then walk.

The initial step to execute this ambitious project involved digging around the building to install the 198 mobile supports in the spaces underneath. After the pillars of the building were shortened, the robotic legs were extended upward, lifting the building before moving forward.

With the initial process done, it took 18 days for the building to rotate 21 degrees and move 62 meters away to its new location. The relocation process was completed on October 15.

A statement from the Huangpu district government says that the Lagena Primary School was constructed in 1935 by the municipal board of Shanghai’s former French Concession.

The city administration decided to move the building in order to make space for a new commercial and office complex, which will be completed within next three years. The old school building will become a center for heritage protection and cultural education in the city.