With the cutting of a ribbon and release of brightly coloured balloons tethered to three spotted gum saplings, the HMRI Building made its ceremonial transition from heavy construction to fit-out phase last Friday.
The building industry custom of “tree-topping” harks back to ancient Scandinavian mythology and the belief that human souls returned to the trees after death.
The aim is to appease the spirits that were displaced by felling trees for the new building and instill good fortune. In modern days of steel and concrete constructions, the event traditionally occurs at the end of the last cement pour.
The three saplings, which were donated by HMRI Board Director Hilton Grugeon, will be planted as part of the landscaping.
The ribbons were cut by representatives of the partnership that is bringing the $90 million centre to fruition.
Technical Advisor Lynn Herd, who has lived and breathed life into this building over the past three years, represented HMRI. Builder Cockram Constructions was represented by Project Director Ross Giblett, while HMRI researcher Nikola Bowden was the figurehead for the researchers who will work in building in years to come.
HMRI Director Maree Gleeson acknowledged the fact that the HMRI Building is being constructed on Awabakal land. She paid her respects to their elders past and present, and thanked Awabakal’s Aunty Sandra for attending.
As part of the tradition, the owners of the building cook a meal to thank the design and building teams. It meant that construction workers, HMRI Board and Foundation members, researchers and staff were all rubbing shoulders and enjoying a barbecue.
HMRI Life Governor Jennie Thomas drove from Canberra to be part of the ceremony.
HMRI Chairman Bob Kennedy said in his speech that the initial vision for the building, conceived by the then-named Hunter Medical Research Cooperative in October 1990 included the comment: In essence the building is expected to be a two-storey medium quality structure, brick veneer and tile roof, located along a relatively level ridge to the northwest of John Hunter Hospital.
“What we now see is a quality, four-storey structure carved into a sloping hillside that will eventually house 16,000 square metres of laboratory and office space,” he said.
The building is due to be completed by March 27 next year.