An old building in Shanghai, China has made great history. Shanghai residents passing through the city's eastern Huangpu district earlier this month have seen an unusual sight: a "walking" building.

An 85-year-old primary school has been lifted off the ground -- in its entirety -- and relocated using new technology dubbed the "walking machine."

An aerial shot of the Shanghai Lagena Primary School building. 

The city's latest effort has been to preserve historic structures, engineers attached nearly 200 mobile supports under the five-story building, according to the chief technical supervisor of the project.
 Lan Wuji, 


The supports act like robotic legs. They're split into two groups which alternately rise up and down, imitating the human stride. Attached sensors help control how the building moves forward, said Lan, whose company Shanghai Evolution Shift developed the new technology in 2018.

"It's like giving the building crutches so it can stand up and then walk," he said.

According to a statement from the Huangpu district government, the Lagena Primary School was constructed in 1935 by the municipal board of Shanghai's former French Concession. It was moved in order to make space for a new commercial and office complex, which will be completed by 2023.
Workers had to first dig around the building to install the 198 mobile supports in the spaces underneath, Lan explained. After the pillars of the building were truncated, the robotic "legs" were then extended upward, lifting the building before moving forward.


Over the course of 18 days, the building was rotated 21 degrees and moved 62 meters (203 feet) away to its new location. The relocation was completed on October 15, with the old school building set to become a center for heritage protection and cultural education.
The project marks the first time this "walking machine" method has been used in Shanghai to relocate a historical building, the government statement said.

But the Lagena Primary School, which weighs 7,600 tons, posed a new challenge -- it's T-shaped, whereas previously relocated structures were square or rectangular, according to Xinhua. The irregular shape meant that traditional methods of pulling or sliding may not have worked because it may not have withstood the lateral forces placed on it, said Lan.

The building also needed to be rotated and follow a curved route to its relocation instead of just moving in a straight line -- another challenge that required a new method.

"During my 23 years of working in this area, I haven't seen any other company that can move structures in a curve," he added.

Experts and technicians met to discuss possibilities and test a number of different technologies before deciding on the "walking machine," Xinhua said.

Lan told CNN he couldn't share the exact cost of the project, and that relocation costs will differ case by case.

"It can't be used as a reference, because we have to preserve the historical building no matter what," he said. "But in general, it's cheaper than demolishing and then rebuilding something in a new location."

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