Topping Off Ceremony Marks Milestone in New Computer Science Building

| April 11, 2023

The Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Human-Centered Computation Hall is scheduled to open in spring 2024

In a time-honored tradition, the topping-off ceremony of the Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Human-Centered Computation Hall marked a symbolic and historical day. (Photo/Greg Grudt/Steve Cohn Photography)

On a sun-drenched, spring morning at USC’s University Park Campus, a towering crane hoisted the final steel beam toward the sky and atop the Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Human-Centered Computation Hall.  

In a time-honored tradition, the moment marked a “symbolic and historical day,” said Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, who was joined for the celebrations by USC President Carol L. Folt, donors Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg, as well as USC community members, project leaders and construction team members.  

The ceremony, known as “topping off,” marks a key milestone: when the highest structural component of an important building is put in place halfway through the construction process, which began with a groundbreaking ceremony in May 2021.  

The beam, painted in a vibrant “Kelly green,” topped with a customary American flag and carrying the signatures of more than 60 attendees, was placed on the top level of the 116,000-square-foot structure.  

Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg, USC President Carol L. Folt and invited guests gaze up as the final beam is placed atop the new building. Photo/ Greg Grudt/Steve Cohn Photography (Photo/Gus Ruelas)

The green theme was fitting, noted President Folt: the building holds a special honor as the first LEED-Platinum Certified building on campus.   

Once complete, the facility will include open-plan, modern computational labs and research facilities, a 300-seat auditorium, as well as collaborative spaces where students and faculty can work tother to solve complex problems.  

With the facility’s framework now complete, the next steps include enclosing the structure and building out the floors, culminating in the building’s spring 2024 opening. 

Dean Yortsos, addressing the crowd gathered at the Michelson and Irani Plazas, recalled the “irresistible vision” to transform a humble parking lot, situated in front of the Michelson Building and adjacent to Irani Hall, into a state-of-the-art computer science hub.   

“This was a vacant space that cried for a new building,” said Yortsos. “A new computer science building that would complete a majestic trifecta of biomedical science, computational biology, and computer science, with all three buildings contributing to advancing a human-centric mission to improve the human condition.”  

Dean Yortsos also emphasized the “remarkable, extraordinary construction team of architects, engineers and talented staff” who reached this milestone despite adversity “from COVID-19 lockdowns to supply-chain disruptions, to atmospheric river discharges.” He expressed his gratitude to the Ginsburgs and President Folt for helping the school reach “this magical moment.”  

Left to right: USC President Carol L. Folt, Allen Ginsburg, Charlotte Ginsburg, USC Viterbi School of Engineering Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. (Photo/Greg Grudt/Steve Cohn Photography)

Grateful for community support 

Topping off is a ceremony “full of history and symbolism,” said Folt, with roots going back to 700 A.D. when Scandinavian builders began to top off new halls under construction with sheathes of grain for good luck.  

“This moment also gives us a chance to recognize everyone who is putting their heart, hard work and countless hours into this project,” said Folt.  

Six hundred people are physically building Ginsburg Hall. When the doors to new building open, said Folt, they will have poured more than 500,000 hours of labor into the project, 12 million pounds of concrete, and laid 145,000 bricks.  

“Behind every big dream are the people who make it possible.” Carol Folt. 

President Folt recalled how, throughout the process, the Ginsburgs never lost sight of their priority: human beings. “Behind every big dream are the people who make it possible,” said Folt. “Allen and Charlotte see the value of bridging diverse ideas and different ways of thinking.”  

Folt also shared her deep appreciation for HOK, the architect and manager for LEED sustainability; Introba, the engineering team; Turner, the general contractor; and USC’s Capital Construction Development.   

Next taking the podium, Chris Toomey, USC vice president and executive director of facilities planning and management, praised the strong collaborative partnership that turned a vision into a physical reality, while “never losing sight of the ultimate purpose and promise that this building embodies.”  

Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg. (Photo/Greg Grudt/Steve Cohn Photography)

Toomey introduced Jose Alday, project executive at Turner Construction, who earned his degree in civil engineering at USC in 1999.   

“These were my stomping grounds,” said Alday, “it is truly a privilege and an honor to be here.” 

He applauded the hard work of all involved, including the workers, who he described as “artists of their trade,” and Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg for their generosity and inspiration.  

“I’m very excited to bring more workers on site as we start ramping up, building up the floors and enclosing the building,” he said. “There are more great things to come.”

Bringing the event to a close, Dean Yortsos led the crowd in raising a toast to the new building—and its boundless future.  

“While today’s event signifies the physical limit of the upwards dimension of the building,” he said, “it also marks the physical space where, in terms of the impact and innovation to be created, the sky will be the limit.” 

Published on April 11th, 2023

Last updated on April 11th, 2023

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