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Ancient ceremony marks milestone in construction of state-of-the-art Business School

03 Nov 2014

Abercrombie Precinct project

Ancient traditions are important, it seems, even for the enormous, no nonsense John Holland Group, a company with an image more readily defined by hard hat, concrete pours, towering construction cranes and tight deadlines on multi-million dollar projects.

Last year, the company invited a local Aboriginal elder to perform a smoking ceremony on the site of the University of Sydney Business School's new 250 million dollar state-of-the-art facility in the Sydney suburb of Darlington.

A year on and John Holland Group has again turned to ancient tradition to ensure the successful completion of this vast undertaking know as the Abercrombie Precinct project.

Before an audience of hard hat wearing workers, company managers and University representatives, an evergreen tree from the Australian rainforest was hoisted six floors above the ground to the top level of the partly competed building.

This, the dignitaries were told, was a "Topping Out" ceremony, an ancient Scandinavian religious rite held when a construction reaches its highest point. The aim is to appease the tree-dwelling spirits displaced by the building work.

Following the raising of the tree, Vice-Chancellor, Dr Michael Spence, and the Business School's Dean, Professor Greg Whitwell, were invited to make a gloved hand impression in wet cement for posterity.

"This is not just a building; it is an investment in the young people of Australia and the region," said Dr Spence. "It is a building that will create opportunities."

Professor Whitwell said the Abercrombie Precinct resulted from the hard work, creativity and imagination of a small army of people and would ultimately become an asset and a showcase for the entire University.

"This building will allow us to reach our potential as a world class business school," he said. "Most importantly, it will allow us to do what we have always done and that is making lives better."

John Holland's Project Director, Adrian Mulhall, admitted that the company had faced some challenges and would no doubt face further challenges before the project is completed in the middle of next year. "We have still got a lot of work to go but today is a day for celebration," he said.

In keeping with ancient tradition, workers on the site were treated to a meal at the end of the Topping Out formalities. The tree, itself, will be transferred to the grounds of the nearby Darlington Public School.

The John Holland Group chose to "appease" the tree dwelling spirits with the Topping Out ceremony on the eve All Hallows' Day, better known as Halloween, a time for remembering the dead including saints and martyrs – just a coincidence or perhaps another nod to tradition.