In a ceremony hosted by Dean Nitin Nohria last Monday, HBS faculty, students, staff and construction workers commemorated the completion of Tata Hall’s first phase of construction in a traditional “topping off” ceremony.
Named in honor of Ratan Tata, an executive education alumnus who donated $50 million towards the $100 million project, and designed by William Rawn Associates, Tata Hall will house HBS’ Advanced Management Program. The facility will boast 179 additional living spaces, new classrooms and modern common spaces.
The topping off ceremony marks an important milestone for the project, which broke ground in December 2011 and is slated for completion in December 2013. Construction of the facility has complicated traffic routes between HBS campus and Cambridge, and has produced significant noise pollution for residents of surrounding buildings, including Soldiers Field Park.
Despite the inconveniences of the project, the facility is an important addition to the executive education campus. Tata Hall will nearly double the beds available for potential executive education participants, which currently number less than 200.
Dean Nohria encouraged attendees of Monday’s ceremony – including former HBS Dean Jay O. Light, HBS Professor Rohit Deshpande and other executives – to participate in the occasion by joining him in signing a white, steel beam, which was then hoisted to the highest point of the Tata Hall building.
In his remarks, Nohria honored Mr. Tata, who could not attend the ceremony but was “here with us in spirit.” Recalling a recent conversation with Mr. Tata, “I can’t tell you how proud he felt of this building,” Nohria said. “We thank Mr. Tata for creating this opportunity for us.”
Nohria gave special recognition to former Dean Light, whose work secured the $50 million gift from Mr. Tata. “It’s thanks to [Light] working with Mr. Tata that we have this opportunity today,” he said.
Nohria also took the opportunity to praise the construction workers who have made Tata Hall a reality.
“It is great to be here with the people who are directly involved with the construction of this project,” he said, before leading the audience in a round of applause for the construction team. “We salute you.”
Noting that this was his first topping off ceremony, Nohria explained that the topping off tradition is said to add “good luck and good fortune for those who will occupy this building.”
He further explained that the small tree that was mounted atop the white beam is meant to “continue the old tradition to appease the gods after having used so much of the Earth’s resources to build the project… even as we build great buildings, we are a part of nature and we must preserve it,” he said.
The ceremony concluded with remarks from Robert C. Murray, the president of Bond Brothers, the construction company in charge of managing the Tata building, which he described as “unique, one-of-a-kind and there’s nothing similar to it.”
“Harvard is a long-term client of ours,” Murray said. “So to be entrusted with a project this significant on the Business School campus is very meaningful to us.”
Dean Nohria held a lunch in honor of the construction workers following the ceremony.
Construction and Noise Pollution
Perhaps the most welcome news of the day for current students – particularly ECs who will graduate before Tata Hall opens next year – is that the topping off ceremony means the worst of the noise pollution created by the project is over, according to Andrew O’Brien, Chief of Operations at HBS.
“The loudest part of this whole process is the digging, which is already done,” O’Brien said.
Since construction began, Soldiers Field Park residents have grown accustomed to loud banging noises as early as 7:30am emanating from the project. Most of the noise has stemmed from laying the foundation for the building and erecting the steel beams.
“Once the wrapping of the construction site is done, then the focus is on the exterior, installing the glass and the linoleum, which is noisy, but not as disturbing,” O’Brien said. “Once the exterior is complete, the additional construction takes place inside of the building and no one will be able to hear it.”