An evergreen ‘topping out’ for the Knight Cancer Research Building

(OHSU/Joe Rojas-Burke)

Ironworkers placed the final steel beam onto the Knight Cancer Research Building on Monday. And in the “topping out” tradition, members of Ironworkers Local 29 signed the beam and affixed a live fir tree and a U.S. flag before hoisting it into position seven stories above Portland’s South Waterfront District.

The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute’s new building, located north of the Collaborative Life Sciences Building on Southwest Moody Avenue, will house laboratories in early cancer detection and other areas of research, and it will include administrative offices, a conference center and street-level retail space. Construction is on schedule for completion in the summer of 2018.

Already, the façade is taking shape, providing glimpses of what the completed exterior will look like, including the striking sawtoothed pattern of the south wall.

With the steel structure complete, the red tower crane will be disassembled on August 31 and the bulk of construction activity will shift to interior development and finishing work, according to the latest update from SRG Partnership architects, McCarthy|Andersen contractors and the OHSU project managers.

The topping out custom goes back hundreds of years among European carpenters. Ironworkers adopted the tradition early in the 20th Century and have kept it alive. Opinions differ on the symbolism of the evergreen tree. Many see it as an expression of hope for the safe completion of the building and a blessing for its future inhabitants.

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L1160495 (1)(OHSU/Joe Rojas-Burke)