Topping Out the New Building

the new academic building

On October 10th, AMS will celebrate a milestone in our new building’s construction with a topping out ceremony. Just like the Scandinavian rituals of old, we will pay homage to the trees that went into the building’s frame and honor those whose hard work made our new classrooms and library a reality.

Topping Out?

Topping out ceremonies date back to at least 700 AD, although some sources describe similar ceremonies taking place in ancient Greece and Rome. The most reciprocated version of these “pannenbiers,” as the Dutch call them, is to mount a tree on the very top of the constructed building. Scandinavian mythology says that humans originated from trees and return to them when they die. This mounted tree was meant to give the tree sprits a new place to live.

man putting tree on top of building

photo credit: Timberpeg®

While fewer people believe in the mythology behind the ritual, topping off ceremonies continue to be a way of celebrating a building’s construction. Builders use it even if the house isn’t stick-built, finding creative ways to incorporate a tree like symbol in their masonry or iron work. The Marriot Marquis Hotel skyscraper even held a topping out ceremony when it was built in 1986, using an American flag in place of a tree.

A Celebration to Recognize the Hard Work

We are excited to have our own topping out ceremony on October 10th.  To allow for social distancing, the private gathering will be held outside in the AMS courtyard. Participants will be asked to wear masks. Light refreshments will be served as small groups will be guided through the building by current staff members. Xander Ellenbogen (architect and alumnus), Todd Kindberg (contractor and former staff), Jon Pertee (contractor and parent of two alumni), and Zac O’Donnell (contractor and alumnus), who have all had integral roles in constructing the new building will be in attendance.

We are excited for this milestone for our building and happy to celebrate the hard work that made it possible.  We are also excited to be part of an over 1000 year tradition that will hopefully keep the tree spirits arounds us feel appreciated.

-by Nicholas Maldonado