The origins of this ceremony seem to be lost in history, but it is performed all over the world in one form or another and is traditionally associated with the point at which the topmost stone is to be fixed to the building. In its simplest form this act is signalled by a branch of evergreen being hoisted to the top of the building, and a toast drunk by everyone on the site to celebrate the completion of the structure of the building.
There have been many variations of this over the years depending upon the period in history or its location. On an open site the evergreen is frequently thrown to the ground to be burnt, as the last part of a ceremony to ward off any evil influences, and it is claimed that when sacrifices were associated with the event, it has involved building the architect into the structure. . .
In practical terms it establishes the point at which the client is able to thank and pay his own respects to the men who have actually been constructing the building, and it is, and should be, his party for all the workmen on the site. The space allocated to that part of the event should therefore be fairly generous. The ceremony itself takes place at the highest point, so may have to be confined to a fairly small platform that will hold the immediate participants, principal guests and photo-
graphers. On the other hand, where it is a flat roof area, the entire site personnel can be accommodated for the party and the ceremony.
The client as host will be responsible for the list of guests over and above the general invitation to all site staff, and will welcome all vistors on arrival. Plenty of time should be allowed between the arrival time and the ceremony to permit people to get from the street—possibly by hoist—to the top of a building which is still essentially a shell, and special safety arrangements may have to be made to conduct this operation.
On this occasion the architect explains the background and introduces the ceremony to the assembly. The client then thanks and congratulates all the people concerned with the construction, and the builder generally responds and invites the principal guest to undertake the topping out. This is done by placing in position the last brick, tile or shovel of concrete as appropriate; the site agent will have made arrangements for this to be done in whatever way is simplest and least likely to fail. When this is done the evergreen is hoisted, and beer, the traditional drink for a topping out, is distributed for the proposal of the toast and the equally traditional three cheers.