Cardinal attends 'Topping-Out' of Cardinal Place
posted on 07 December 2004
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor this morning blessed a 650,000 square-foot glass complex opposite Westminster Cathedral which will open in Autumn 2005. The complex is called Cardinal Place and reflects the cathedral in its glass.
The blessing preceded an ancient 'topping-out' ritual led by Lord McAlpine, whose company has built Cardinal Place, and by Sir Ian Henderson, the outgoing chairman of the developers, Land Securities.
A topping-out ceremony is an ancient pagan ritual extending back to the times of the Druids, when an evergreen shoot was nailed to a new building in order to ward off evil spirits.
The ceremony was held in the open air of the ninth floor of Cardinal Place, which is still waiting for its roof. There was a magnificent view of the Cathedral.
Before the ceremony began, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor sprinkled water and read a prayer of blessing.
He said he had laid many foundation stones in his time, but this was the first time he had ever been part of a topping-out ceremony. He praised the 'great sensitivity to the cathedral shown in the planning' of the building, and said it would improve the appearance of Victoria St.
'I am very glad it is going to be called Cardinal Place'. He added: 'We are glad to be a part of it'.
He then quoted Matthew 7:24: 'The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock'.
In fact, the building rests not on rock but on rubber pads, to prevent vibrations from the local District and Circle line.
The ceremony began with Sir Ian ringing a bell, then shovelling concrete into a box and smoothing it over with a trowel to the accompaniment of bagpipes. The works manager then nailed an evergreen branch to a wall. He then turned to Sir Ian and said: 'For a job well done, I demand my mug of ale'.
A mug of ale was brought for him.
Ceremonial silver mugs were then handed by Lord McAlpine to architects, contractors and others, including the Cardinal.
When it is completed, Cardinal Place will have two landscaped areas with cafes. One runs north to south and is called Cathedral Walk. The other runs east to west and is called Cardinal Street. The Cathedral will be clearly in view from both.
The main occupant of the retail space will be Marks and Spencer. Some 550,000 square feet will be office space.