Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Topping Out

Next week our general contractor at CityWalk, Key Construction, is giving a “topping out” party. This is an old, old tradition, which has been traced back to at least the sixteenth century. The traditional form calls for erecting an evergreen tree or branch to the topmost rafter of the building after it’s been placed, often with a national flag and usually with a celebration for the workers.

I don’t know how traditional Key’s party will be, after all, this is a renovation so we don’t have a traditional “topping off”, but it will mark a significant moment in completing the work. I’m looking forward to going. It will be a first for me.

Here’s a Rockwell Kent lithograph “Roof Tree” from 1928 that illustrates a topping out. I love the joy that you can see in the form of the carpenter.

I’ve never seen a topping out ceremony for a single family house in the United States—they probably still occur but aren’t standard anymore. Apparently in Europe, especially in Germany and the Scandinavian countries, topping out ceremonies are more common, even in residential construction.

In the United States, topping out ceremonies now occur only for significant buildings—like downtown high rises. That makes topping out parties a specialty of ironworkers, members of The International Association of Bridge, Structural, and Ornamental Ironworkers to be more specific yet. Those are the workers that deal with the big steel.

The moment celebrated isn’t the completion of the building. It’s when the highest point of the structure is in place and the frame of the building is complete. The ceremony is held at the moment when completing the building is in site; when the highest roof beam is placed and the work is all downhill. We don’t celebrate our work and accomplishments enough most of the time. A big job done well deserves a bit of relaxation and self-congratulations.

1 comment:

  1. John, that is exciting news. Your team deserves some celebration. Lisa Goolsby