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News Clips 04/17/2013
Crowd Gathers at Florida Polytechnic for A Topping Out Ceremony
Source: Lakeland Ledger, 04/16/13
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By Mary Toothman
About 250 people gathered under a clear, blue sky to take part in a topping out ceremony Tuesday, a custom that goes back many years and is practiced in many cultures.
It is believed to provide a new building with good luck, blessings and good tidings.
Florida Polytechnic University leaders welcomed all that and more as the school continues on its way to being the state's 12th university. Board Chairman Rob Gidel opened the ceremony.
"This is one of those special occasions we all can enjoy," he said. "It takes some time for an idea to become a reality."
He introduced architect Santiago Calatrava, a native of Valencia, Spain, who traveled to Lakeland from his New York City home to participate in the event.
With lots of smiles and a command of the English language that features a heavy accent, he said how pleased he is with the building, and excited about its future. The Innovation, Science and Technology Building will serve its purpose for many years to come, Calatrava said.
After the talks, a crane operator hoisted a final beam to the top of the building. Heads all turned upward as the beam moved through the blue sky.
Later, Calatrava said it was very meaningful to witness. "Did you notice? Did you see? Everyone became so very quiet. It was, it almost had a religious aspect to it. It was a very emotional moment."
Construction began in March 2012 on the building, located on 174 acres donated to the state for the university. The $100 million building is not projected to be finished until June 2014, but its unusual design is taking shape. The 160,000-square-foot building will feature classrooms, auditoriums, meeting rooms, research and teaching labs and study areas.
In an interview a few hours after the event, Calatrava said the materials used for the building are part of why it is unusual. "Finally, we are using only water, concrete, steel and aluminum," he said. "We are working with very basic materials, and giving it an austere look," he said.
It is a look that, at the same time, contrasts with a tremendous amount of light and space, he said.
"We are trying to give to the students a lecture, a lesson, you see," he said. "We want to create an environment, let's say, of study, you see, finally – and this is the most mystical aspect and the most difficult to explain – that the specialty of this building is the space, and the material, and the light."
The building was planned by University of South Florida Polytechnic leaders who approved Calatrava's $13 million fee to design the structure. USF Poly no longer exists; the building project was inherited by Florida Poly when the 12th state university was created by legislation last year.
Former Sen. J.D. Alexander, a Lake Wales Republican who championed the formation of the independent polytechnic, was all smiles at the event. "It is a great day," he said. "The building's progress is visually demonstrating the promise of Florida Poly."
Classes for the first Florida Poly students are expected to start in August 2014.
The students, Calatrava said, are ultimately the inspiration for the building. "Polytechnics are very intense, the education is," he said. "When they go in those corridors I want them happy. I want them enjoying life.