Topping Out tree

07.06.15 | topping out

Over the past weekend we made a lot of progress thanks to the hard work of Keith and a team of 1st year boys from the RCA. One of the most daunting challenges so far was raising the larger side of the back gable wall … a task which required the help of literally everyone at the Farm! After talking through the plan of action with Keith and Alex, and preparing all the required props and stakes, we called them over. It was impossible to move it vertically, and so we had to carry it over fences, across the playground, onto the mound, and then slide it down. From there, we raised it up vertically and somehow (with lots of shouting and a bit of hammering) managed to slot it into the joints of the smaller gable wall, which was already in place. It was then bolted to the footing, attached to the second side wall, and propped up with diagonal braces.

Once the other side of the portal frame was up at the front, the lower framework was complete – and it was time to add the roof. Thanks to the generous support of Hawes, we had a set of four access towers, which created a platform within the structure. The roof panels were lifted onto this and then raised into place. A few last-minute adjustments needed to be make in-site (a couple of the lattice pieces had been swapped around by mistake so needed to be trimmed accordingly) and the top beam was slightly too long – pushing the whole of the front frame forward slightly. Nevertheless, after a little struggle, we managed to get both sides of the small roof up in time for the topping out ceremony that evening. The practice of “topping out” a new building can be traced to the ancient Scandinavian religious rite of placing a tree atop a new building to appease the tree-dwelling spirits displaced in its construction. Let’s hope it worked!

It was also a great chance to invite the local community, friends, parents and tutors to see the progress so far, and draw a line under the construction before my exam and exhibition, which opens on the 24th.  After a few more afternoons on site this week, to get the two remaining roof panels up, I’ll be back at the end of July, during the school’s summer break, to complete the flooring, and roof cladding. The official opening of the music pavilion will take place in September at the start of the new academic year as part of Speen Fest.