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Axis Tower becomes doorway to the past

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Students from the University of Salford, including trainees on the Russells Construction ‘Building Student Programme’ took part in the ceremony

Already a landmark for the future, Axis Tower is set to become a doorway to the past with the burying of a time capsule in the very fabric of the building as part of an ancient tradition.

The 29-storey tower, one of Manchester’s most complex building projects, has reached its highest point, the Topping Out.

An official ceremony saw members of the project team celebrated and thanked as part of the centuries-old builders’ rite.

Main contractor Russells Construction hosted the event, with representatives from Alliance and the design team taking part in the ceremony, witnessed by more than 100 sub-contractors and suppliers. A stainless-steel time capsule was buried in a pre-formed opening in the ground floor reception lobby together with items including oil, wine, corn and salt which signify the medieval origins of the ceremony, before the final pour of concrete sealed the opening.

Students from the University of Salford, including trainees on the Russells Construction ‘Building Student Programme’ took part in the ceremony with the winner of a recent coursework module helping to lower the time capsule. Over the past semester, Russells has worked with university to further the students’ understanding of project management and programming.

John Millward, Russells’ construction director, explained the value of the event. He said: “Reference to ‘Topping Out’ can be found in the history of significant structures such as the Egyptian pyramids and the building of York Minster, and the rite is often recreated with modern construction projects. It’s important to take the opportunity for pause, reflect and thank everyone who has contributed to realising the vision for this landmark new building.

“On this occasion we have also worked with the university to introduce the students to aspects of the build and for them to really appreciate how much planning and management goes into each and every new building. They are the future of this industry and we hope incredible projects like Axis Tower will inspire them to become the very best construction professionals they can be.”

The university tie-in has seen students learning about the construction of Axis Tower, which stands on a constrained 761 sq metre wedge-shaped footprint on the bank of the Rochdale Canal and requires a temporary platform across the canal to allow access. The concrete structure splays out from the base to ‘clasp’ the upper floors which have larger floorplates than the foundations, in a complex feat of engineering. A new permanent bridge will be installed over the canal as the final piece of this complex and inspiring build.

Alongside learning about the scheme the students also helped selected a series of items which will be preserved for posterity within the capsule. These include a copy of Jon Matthews’ original sketch, a copy of the day’s Manchester Evening News, a copy of the winning student’s coursework, pictures of the site team and the project so far, material samples and a shop receipt containing current food costs.

John Millward added: “A record of the contents will be kept in the building and obviously we’re not expecting it to be opened for many, many years. But if, at some point the capsule is uncovered, we hope to give our future compatriots a glimpse into the current times and hope they will remember the workers who contributed to build this tower.”

When complete, Axis Tower will house 170 one- and two-bedroom luxury apartments and two three-bedroom penthouses, all with stunning views over the city and access to a 24-hour concierge service. Sales have already reached 75%, exceeding all expectations.

Dylan Williams, development director at Alliance, said: “Topping out is a significant milestone in the construction of any building and marks the first opportunity for people to really appreciate the true scale and presence of the new building. This is a really complex build and so this moment is also a chance for the team to take stock of what has been achieved and say well done to the guys on the ground. We’re incredibly pleased with the project so far, the skill of the delivery team is evident, and we’re delighted the project is being used to educate and inspire the next generation. There’s still many months’ work left, but it’s already clear what a fantastic statement this building will be when complete.”

Architect Jon Matthews said: “Axis has been 16 years from inception to completion and the building is testament to David Russell’s personal and financial commitment to the project and to its design integrity. A true force of nature, most others would have walked away through the bad times but David didn’t – so this is a truly significant moment. Buildings like this come along maybe once or twice in a career and I personally, and all the team, are immensely proud to be involved.”