Certain milestones in life make the heart soar. Count among them the topping-off ceremony, a charming custom of the construction industry in which an evergreen tree is lofted atop the beam that represents the highest structural point in a new building. The tree symbolizes the life and growth of the structure erected without injury and essentially signals the completion of the steel skeleton.
If you drive over the Founders Bridge into Hartford or whiz by on I-91, you will notice that the long-awaited Connecticut Science Center has been "topped off." The final beam was added to the distinctive roofline that will become, along with the convention center and hotel, a welcome addition to the skyline heralding Hartford's revival and prosperity.
The vital part of the glass structure on the Connecticut River, designed by architect Cesar Pelli, will be the contents, of course. Planned delights include a 3D theater, 40,000 feet of exhibit space and other attractions designed to provoke curiosity about science and inspire more young people to consider science-related careers.
Think of it as iconic architecture, a high-profile teaching tool, economic development or simply as a fun place for families to spend an afternoon.
There are some who rightly view the $150 million project with its "magic carpet" roofline as a dream come true. It took $107 million in state support and many years to materialize. The last few million still have to be raised before opening day a year from this fall.
But of all benchmarks, the topping-off tree transforms the science center from a promise to a reality. This was not the result of alchemy, but of regional cooperation, donor generosity, leadership, vision and plain old dogged persistence.
It's hard to top that formula.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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