Library of Birmingham – Topping Out Celebration

Front view of Libray "Topped Out"

Front view of Libray "Topped Out"

Some of the members of the public who have shown special interest in the new Library of Birmingham were invited by main contractors, Carillion, to a  Topping Out Celebration  on Wednesday 14 September. The Topping Out Ceremony is traditional in the building industry and marks the construction reaching the highest point of the building.
(Click on image for larger view.)

Also looking on were many people who work on the site (dressed in yellow high visibility jackets).

Below is a gallery of photos showing the ceremony which was centred on the sunken amphitheatre of the library.

My recollections of the three speeches given by key people are below.

Actor Gile Taylor kicked off the proceedings with a short reading from Shakespeare’s Alls Well That Ends Well.

Leader of the Birmingham Council, Mike Whitby, praised the project and said it was a particular interest of his and very close to his heart.

He was proud to have been involved from the start in 2004 and of the achievements so far. He recalled the sod cutting ceremony in January 2010 to mark the start of the construction made difficult by freezing weather.

He said that it will be a world-class library redefining what a library should be  – a people’s palace for learning. It was the most significant regeneration project for Birmingham in many years.

He looked forward to the finished library creating an  extra 15,000 jobs for Birmingham people.

Architect  Francine Houben director and founder of the Netherlands firm of Mecannoo, which has designed the building, spoke next.

She recalled the phone call almost 3 years ago whilst on an assignment in Siberia which announced that her company had won the competition to design the library.

Whilst in Birmingham she is staying at the Hyatt Hotel and said how wonderful it felt to look out of her bedroom window to see her dream substantially materialised after just 3 years. She described her vision of the building providing an enrichment of life for Birmingham residents through expansion of the traditional library concept to the performing arts. She described some design aspect of the outside of the building including giving Birmingham viewed from the air a green roof and also impressive features inside being a space for people to explore topped by a view of the sky looking upward from the ground floor.

She thanked all  makers of the project.

Carillion’s Operations Director of the project, Simon Dingle concluded the speeches.

He said this was a unique project and it was a privilege for him to be involved.

He thanked all contract companies and their site workforce who have worked so devotedly on the project for the past 20 months keeping it on program and budget! He praised the Morrisroe personnel for starting work at 7:30am each morning and continuing to pour concrete even during the adverse weather earlier this year to ensure the build remained on plan.

This was week 142 of 217 of the construction. About 600,000 man hours have been spent on the construction so far without any reportable accident – a very fine achievement. A further 1,000,000 man hours of construction are required to complete the project in early 2013 and the pressure is now on to complete.

The project has given work to 110 local people and by the efforts of Carillion’s Sinead Mackenzie working with the Council there are 45 apprentices on site. Furthermore, 18 homeless people were given opportunies which led to 8 being brought back into employment.

Other targets met were achieving 39 out of 40 for being a Considerate Constructor under a voluntary but validated scheme to be good neighbours to local residents and achieving cleanliness, being respectful, safe, environmentally conscious, responsible and accountable. He thanked the neighbours of the site for their tremendous support and tolerance.

There have been over 100 public tours of the site, and 300 people showed interest during last weekend’s ArtsFest festival and visited the site with Carillion’s Mike Winhall.

The assembled onlookers were then treated to performances in the sunken amphitheatre, firstly by the Black Voices lady singers followed by readings from Shakespeare by members of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company.

The speeches were short and to the point and, with the performances, much enjoyed by the onlookers, I feel, judging from the inspired chatter on leaving the site.

Geoff Caine

Photos by Karen and Geoff Caine (Click on images for larger view.)

Artist’s impression of the amphitheatre viewed from within:

Artist's Impression - Open Air Amphitheatre

One thought on “Library of Birmingham – Topping Out Celebration

  1. Simon Felton

    Sadly i didn’t get an invite to the topping out ceremony but it sounded like a fantastic occasion. I’m glad to have done my own part in recording the construction of the library through my blog as it’s risen and seen it from the library tours. The sonnet was such an inspirational choice for the occasion and what the library represents.

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