The building is located in Huangpu District, Shanghai. It was constructed in 1935 and served as a school. However, a decision was made to remove the building from its initial location so that a brand-new versatile structure, planned to open within the next 2-3 years, can be erected.
Shanghai is a pioneering city when it comes to building relocations. Many of these attempts take place as officials try to preserve the historic heritage of the city and prefer not to demolish old structures. Those endeavors are of great importance since China is under extensive urban development for decades and many old buildings have been replaced by large structures (e.g., skyscrapers). In fact, during a period known as the "Cultural Revolution", a political movement that took place between 1966 and 1976, numerous iconic structures in the country were devastated.
The current plan for the massive school was to relocate it to an area about 60 meters away, where it would serve as a cultural and heritage facility. Additionally, the scheme including a rotation of the building by 21 degrees.
The relocation and the rotation of the structure were conducted via a new method developed in 2018 which is known as the "walking machine". The new technique included the utilization of robotic devices to imitate human walking.
In particular, workers initially excavated the foundations of the building and subsequently, 198 mobile robots were installed beneath the structure. Each robot could rise in the air or move forwards. The robotic devices were divided into 2 main groups which moved up and down and proceeded in a manner that resembles walking. The sophisticated movement patterns were controlled via sensors installed in each robotic device. The project was completed in October 2020.
The technology was recently developed by the firm Shanghai Evolution Shift and is devoted to enabling feasible massive building relocations. The total cost of the endeavor has not been announced, however, Shanghai Evolution Shift officials suggest that it is a more cost-efficient method than demolishing the structure and rebuilding another facility.
Nevertheless, there were certain challenges that needed to be addressed in order to achieve the relocation. First of all, the weight of the building reached about 7600 tons making the utilization of numerous mobile supports necessary. Moreover, its shape was unusual, hence typical movement patterns would lead to differential displacements, a fact that could lead to structural failures. Therefore, an intelligent algorithm on how the building will move by 62 meters and simultaneously rotate had to be developed. "During my 23 years of working in this area, I haven't seen any other company that can move structures in a curve," Lan Wuji, the chief technical supervisor of the project, stated.
A stunning video showing the "walking machine" method implemented on the 5-story school can be found below.