UCLA administrators past and present joined Meyer and Renee Luskin and family and friends at the corner of Westwood Plaza and Strathmore Place Monday to watch the final beam of the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center hoisted into the sky and placed atop the seven-story building. The “topping out” event, a tradition among builders, marks the completion of the tallest point in a building project.
Prior to the guests arriving, many of the tradespeople who have been working on the project were invited to sign the beam. Once guests arrived, many of them also added their signatures to the rafter.
“I see this conference center as a major step toward engaging the world on a grand scale, sharing ideas, exchanging potential solutions and really bringing the best minds to UCLA in an environment that will catalyze interactions here,” said Chancellor Gene Block to an audience of roughly 60. “I believe this facility will be a central gateway to our campus, will help us raise our academic visibility, will provide world-class facilities to draw alumni and friends here to campus and serve as a focal point for the celebration of our first 100 years. What a way to culminate the first century of our institution.”
Following remarks from Block, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh and philanthropist Meyer Luskin, the beam, which has a small conifer tree affixed on its right side as per custom and an American flag attached on the left, was lifted by crane to the top of the building. The origins of the “topping out” tradition vary, but it is widely believed that the practice originated in Scandinavia as a way to pay homage to tree-dwelling spirits that were displaced during construction.
A groundbreaking ceremony held in September 2013 commemorated the start of the project. Once completed in 2016, the facility will have 25,000 square feet of meeting space, 250 guest rooms, to be used by those attending conferences or having business with the university, and 125 underground parking spaces. Funding for the project comes from a previously announced gift from the Luskins and $112 million in financing to be paid off over time. The self-sustaining project does not use tuition dollars or state funding.