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31st October 2020

Building in China "walks" using robotic legs

A five-storey building in China has been relocated using an innovative system of robotic legs.



Lagena Primary School, built in 1935, faced demolition to make way for a new commercial and office complex. Located in eastern Huangpu, Shanghai, one of the world's most densely populated districts, it sat close to the famous skyline that includes some of Asia's tallest skyscrapers. Amid growing concern over the loss of architectural heritage and historic sites caused by China's rapid modernisation, a firm called Shanghai Evolution Shift developed a new robotic technology to preserve older structures.

The solution, seen in this video, allows a building to literally "walk" elsewhere. In this case, engineers fitted the school with 198 robotic devices on its underside which functioned as its "legs". The 7,600-ton building could then be moved slowly and smoothly to its new location.

"It's like giving the building crutches, so it can stand up and then walk," said Lan Wuji, chief technical supervisor at Shanghai Evolution Shift.

The irregular T-shaped floorplan of the school made this technically challenging, explained Wuji, since traditional methods of pulling or sliding a big structure may not have been sufficient to withstand the lateral forces placed on it. It also had to follow a slightly curved path, instead of just moving in a straight line.

"Relocation is not the first choice, but better than demolition. I'd rather not touch the historical buildings at all," he added. "The central government is putting more emphasis on the protection of historical buildings. I'm happy to see that progress in recent years."

Over the course of 18 days, Wuji's team rotated the school by 21 degrees and moved it 62 metres (203 feet). The new commercial and office complex to be built on the original site is scheduled for completion in 2023.




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