Shanghai residents passing through the city’s eastern Huangpu district earlier this month may have come across an unusual sight: a “walking” building.
An 85-year-old primary school has been lifted off the ground – all – and relocated with a new technology dubbed the “walking machine”.
In the city’s latest effort to preserve historic structures, engineers have mounted nearly 200 portable racks underneath the five-story building, according to Lan Wuji, the project’s main technical supervisor. judgment.
The brackets act like robot feet. They are divided into two groups that rotate up and down, which mimic human stride. Lan, whose company Shanghai Evolution Shift developed the new technology in 2018, said.
“It’s like giving the building a crutch so it can stand up and then walk,” he said.
A shot of the company’s timelapse shows the school slowly inching up.
According to a statement from the Huangpu district government, Lagena Primary School was built in 1935 by city council of Shanghai’s former French Concession. It was moved to create space for a new commercial and office complex, to be completed in 2023.
First, Lan explained, the workers had to dig around the building to install 198 movable brackets in the gaps below. After the building pillars are trimmed, the robot “legs” are then stretched upwards, lifting the building before moving forward.
Over the course of 18 days, the building has been rotated 21 degrees and moved 62 meters (203 feet) to its new location. The relocation is completed October 15, with the old school set to become a center for heritage protection and cultural education.
The project marks the first time this “treadmill” method has been used in Shanghai to relocate a historic building, the government statement said.
Decade of destruction
In recent decades, China’s rapid modernization has seen many historic buildings flatten to clear land for skyscrapers and glittering office buildings. But there is growing concern about architectural heritage lost due to demolition across the country.
Several cities have launched new conservation and preservation campaigns, which occasionally use advanced technologies that allow old buildings to be relocated instead of demolished.
Formal indifference to historical architecture can be traced the rule of Communist Party leader Mao Zedong. Transparent The catastrophic Cultural Revolution, from 1966 to 1976, countless buildings and historic sites were destroyed as part of the war against the “Four Olds” (customs, culture, habits and old idea).
Mao’s death in 1976 saw calls for the reestablishment of architectural preservation, with the Chinese government granting protection status to some buildings before passing heritage conservation legislation. in the 1980s. In the years that followed, buildings, settlements and even entire towns were supported by the state to maintain their historic appearance.
However, the relentless urbanization process has been and continues to pose a serious threat to architectural heritage. Land sales are also a major source of revenue for local government, meaning buildings of architectural value are often sold to real estate developers for which conservation is not a priority.
“Relocation is not the first option, but it is better to demolish,” said Lan, project supervisor for Shanghai Primary School. “I don’t want to touch the historic buildings at all.”
He added that in order to relocate a monument, companies and developers must pass strict regulations, such as approval by governments at all levels.
However, he said the relocation of the building was “a viable option.” “The central government is paying more attention to the protection of historic buildings. I am delighted to see that progress in recent years.”
Shanghai is arguably China’s most progressive city when it comes to heritage preservation. The existence of a number of buildings from the 1930s in the famous Bund district and the 19th century “shikumen” (or “stone gate”) houses in the refurbished Xintiandi neighborhood offer purses example of how to give old buildings a new life, despite some criticism of how redevelopment has been done.
There are several ways to move a building: For example, it can slide down a set of rails or towed vehicles.
Aerial photo taken of the Shanghai Lagena Primary School building. Credit: Shanghai evolutionary transformation project
The building also needed to be rotated and followed a curved route for resettlement rather than just moving in a straight line – another challenge requiring a new approach.
“In my 23 years working in the field, I haven’t seen any other company move the structure around the curve,” he added.
Experts and technicians met to discuss the possibilities and test out a number of different technologies before deciding to choose a “walking machine,” Xinhua said.
Lan told CNN he cannot share the exact cost of the project and relocation costs will vary by case.
“It cannot be used as a reference, because we must preserve the historic building no matter what,” he said. “But in general, it’s cheaper than demolishing and then rebuilding something in a new location.”