Century-old 3,800-tonne building in Shanghai ‘walks’ to its original location | Watch

Century-old 3,800-tonne building in Shanghai ‘walks’ to its original location | Watch

Shanghai residents passing through a century-old building might have stumbled upon an unusual sight: a “walking” building.

After precise measurement and calculation, a 3,800-tonne building in Shanghai was moved back to its original position recently. Sliding rails were set at the bottom to push the building to its designated location.

The building was lifted off the ground — in its entirety — and relocated using new technology dubbed the ‘walking machine’.

It is by far one of the largest and heaviest masonry structure transportation projects in the city. Interestingly, the workers managed to move the building in one piece.


Structural moving is a process of lifting an entire building at the foundation and moving it elsewhere. It is an increasingly common way to preserve historic buildings that might otherwise be razed to make way for development. It’s also a way to place a building in a safer location if it’s threatened by flooding.


While almost anything can be moved structurally, from old churches to nuclear reactors, the buildings that are moved are set apart by their weight and sometimes by the difficulty of movement. From telephone company headquarters to airport terminals, engineers have carried out unprecedented feats to preserve these structures.


Earlier in 2020, a 7,600-tonne building was moved to a new location in a technological first for the city of Shanghai. Engineers attached nearly 200 mobile supports under the five-storey building.

Over the course of 18 days, the structure was rotated 21 degrees and moved 62 meters (203 feet) away.

The building, originally named 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.


Achieving one of the greatest feats of modern engineering, in November 1930, in Indiana, United States, a team of architects and engineers moved an 11,000-tonne (22-million pound) telephone exchange without even suspending its operations. Work continued in all areas above the basement with all the 600 employees working inside the building every day.

The relocation involved shifting the massive building inch by inch 16 meters south, before rotating 90 degrees, and shifting again, 30 meters west. This took over four weeks to complete.

It allowed room for the construction of a seven-story limestone structure in its place that was consequently erected as the company headquarters in 1932.


An airport terminal, Building 51, in Newark was moved at a cost of $6 million. It was one of the United States’ first passenger terminals. However, as airports modernized and grew to accommodate more passengers, Building 51 became office space and eventually faced extinction so that a runway could be expanded.

The Port Authority and the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office decided to preserve the building. It took five months to move the whole building, which had to be cut into three separate pieces.

Now, Building 51 is the public entrance for the airport’s administration offices.

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