"The last labourer of the company” recently celebrated 40 years in MT Højgaard. Here, senior design manager Frank Peder Schmidt looks back on challenges in Gibraltar, Greenland, Duisburg, and Denmark.
- For me the MT Højgaard name stands for something serious and decent. We’ve always been aware of creating a constructive cooperation with the client. We hand over what we promise, and we make sure to remedy insufficiencies.
Challenges kept me going
40 years sound like a lot. I hear that. But I’ve been lucky to meet challenges along the way. That’s why I’m still with MT Højgaard. Every time my job became routine a new demanding project came up. For a few years I called myself the last labourer of the company because I moved around so much. It was meant positive because the new challenges kept me going. It’s still like that.
Through the years I’ve worked in Gibraltar, Greenland, and Germany, and I’ve been involved in many special projects in Denmark. I’m working on phase one of the Water Cultural Centre in Copenhagen right now. It’s safe to say that that project will turn out very special.
The taxi driver that became Minister of Housing
In 1990 we were building 584 apartments for the government in Gibraltar. At that point I was a part of Højgaard Schultz. Gibraltar was a small society, and it was almost more British than Britain itself. Everyone needed to be heard. The garden project had to be approved by the head of the Botanical Garden. During the project one of the local taxi drivers was named Minister of Housing, and we had to explain everything from scratch to him. That suited me just fine. I like helping people without expertise who just wants a good product.
Gibraltar was all in all something special. Building high-rise buildings in an area in high risk of earthquakes was unknown territory for us. The weather was also more extreme than what we were used to. I remember the contract saying that we had to install light in all the 584 apartments. It sounded extensive, but we figured out that the client just wanted us to install a single neon tube per room. That was the way in Gibraltar.
The green helmet
I was part of projects for both Nokia and Philips in the years from 1997 to 2005 where industrial construction was shooting up everywhere by the waterfront in Sydhavnen. We had a lot of projects out there. We placed the site accommodation on a barge so we could move it as we signed new contracts.
Philips wanted to contribute with art both inside and outside of the building. They hired a well-known danish artist to do a granite sculpture, and he though it was very funny to have a beer with us on Fridays. I don’t know where he got it from, but he had a green building helmet that he wore. It was the same colour as the Danish Working Environment Authority, so our craftsmen got very tense when he arrived on his bike. We ended up giving him a white helmet to avoid misunderstandings.
Need to keep up
Our business is sometimes criticized for being conservative, but a lot has happened during the last decades. Especially with montage and the preparation of project material where it feels like a different world compared to what it was a very short time ago. We need to keep up all the time, and even though I’m closing up on turning 65 it’s still exiting to see the new possibilities within project design. I believe that it’s important for us to remain open to changes, and I do my best to try that myself.
We finish what we start
In the 2010’s I worked on Nordea’s new domicile in Copenhagen. Henning Larsen was the architect, and I thought their drawings were fantastic. The domicile was a demanding project where I had to rely on all my experience and think outside of the box. The safety requirements in the building were sky-high, and we needed to figure out a way to keep the trader department cool and prepare a giant server room in the middle of the building.
Stands for quality
For me the MT Højgaard name stands for something serious and decent. We’ve always been aware of creating a constructive cooperation with the client. We hand over what we promise, and we make sure to remedy insufficiencies. It can sound like an easy job, but that decency is not a given in the construction industry. I can say with a clean conscience that we’ve delivered a quality product on the projects that I’ve been part of, and I’m very happy with that.