What would be your reaction if you met the National Arts Theatre at Lagos on its way to another location? Would it feel like you’ve embarked on one of those trips to the world of fantasies where your imaginations run wild? Have you ever had to move to a new location but wished you could take your house along? These questions and many more revolve around the possibility of building relocation. This impressive feat has a pedigree going back to the last century and the one before but then it involved either disassembling and reassembling the structure at its required destination or transporting it whole from the foundation. The former’s disadvantage was due to the fact that its operation was limited. Of course, you cannot perfectly disassemble a house made from mortar, it may result in utter demolition. The latter wasn’t any better. This was because the techniques involved were mediocre. One of such techniques involved the use of screw jacks which were manually turned to lift the building off the ground. Box cribs were stacked into heights and steel beams added as a form of support. Once the building had got to a sufficient height it would be placed on a flatbed truck or hydraulic dollies to be wheeled to its new location.

In 2018, the Shanghai Evolution Shift Company literally gave legs to an 85-year old primary school which stood the risk of demolition. This was done to make space for a new commercial and office complex which will be completed in 2023. This new technology dubbed the “walking machine” constituted nearly 200 mobile supports and enabled the 5-storey building to move out of the way. The number of supports to be used is dependent on the size of the building and are split into two groups which alternately rise up and down, imitating the human stride and regulated by sensors attached to each of them. The building was constructed in 1935 by the Municipal board of Shanghai’s former French concession. The machine was chosen not just for its efficiency but for the fact that the building was not like the regular square or rectangular ones. It was T-shaped and using the conventional method of pulling or sliding may not have worked. Another challenge was the fact that its route involved rotation and the walking machine was the only credible solution to moving the 7600 ton structure. Workers had to dig around the building to install the mobile supports underneath. Over the course of 18 days, the building was rotated 21 degrees and moved 62 metres away to its new location.

Relocation should replace demolition due to obstruction. It is not only cheaper but time efficient. This innovation should be greatly embraced by the government of every country as it would help prevent the extinction of important structures such as monuments which are at this time greatly endangered because of rapid urbanization.

This article was written bChuka-Manyike Bosah Justice; connect with him on Instagram via here  


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