Lakeside Tower Celebrates Topping Out With Ceremonial Tree

October 17, 2017

It’s official…Lakeside Tower is “Topped Out”!  Can you spot the traditional “Top Out Tree”?

The tree is an ancient construction tradition. There are many such rites associated with a new edifice including the laying of foundation stones, the signing of beams, and ribbon-cuttings. But what’s particularly charming about the construction tree is that it isn’t associated with the beginning or the end of construction. Rather, the tree is associated with the raising of a building’s highest beam or structural element. Hence the name of the rite: the topping-out ceremony. It’s a sign that a construction project has reached its literal apogee, its most auspicious point.

In fact, the first topping-out ceremonies didn’t use trees. In 8th-century Scandinavia sheathes of grain were the plant material of choice. But as topping-out ceremonies spread throughout northern Europe, trees were a natural evolution. In cultures closely tuned to the natural environment, there may have been a pleasing visual analogy between the growth of a tree and the raising of a building. Perhaps a prayerful humility was conjured by the (temporary) elevation of a tree above the top of a man-made structure.

The ancient topping-out ceremony has survived mostly intact in this era of high-tech, high-altitude edifices. In the U.S., particularly on large projects, the final beam is often signed, and an American flag may accompany the tree skyward. The purpose of the ceremony—at least for shining skyscrapers—is usually couched in comfortably post-pagan terms: a celebration of a so-far safe construction site, an expression of hope for the secure completion of the structure, and a kind of secular blessing for the building and its future inhabitants.

This text was adapted in part from the following article.