Our man on the Job: Andreas Schmidt is Site Manager at Gasteig Sendling

Our man on the Job: Andreas Schmidt is Site Manager at Gasteig Sendling The Bosses – site manager Andreas Schmidt (l.) and Gasteig Managing Director Max Wagner Robert Haas

If you want to visit the Sendling construction site, you’ll need his permission: Andreas Schmidt is in charge of the building work for the interim accommodation that the Gasteig will occupy during the general refurbishment of its premises from 2021. A guard in the gatehouse on Hans-Preißinger-Straße checks all traffic onto the site. Now he asks us for the reason for our visit: a conversation with site manager Andreas Schmidt, who welcomes us in his 20 square metre office container.

A harmonious team: Andreas Schmidt and Abu Ria

There are photos and shopping lists on the walls, and dusty rubber boots are neatly lined up on a doormat next to the entrance. Andreas Schmidt, how much at home do you feel on the Gasteig building site by now?
It’s true, the interim quarter has become a bit like home for me; I see my colleague Nadine from the CL MAP construction management team far more often than my wife, and I spend much more time on the site than I do at home. That’s why we try to make the container a little bit homely and try to keep it tidy and reasonably comfortable. By the way, the beautiful plant here has been entrusted to us by Senjak, the tyre dealer next door, because he no longer had room for it due to the rebuild.

Sounds like a good neighbourhood …
Yes, we have a good standing by now and get on well with the tenants here in the area. We try to help each other and we communicate with each other. Wherever I build, I always have an environment that suffers under the construction work. As site manager, I must inform and include all the people that are affected and do my best to ensure that they can coexist with the site.

»People will be happy to have the Gasteig here for a while (…)«

What do you say to those who are directly affected: Why is it worth putting up with the disruption caused by the Gasteig building work in Sendling?
Once this project is finished, I expect the enthusiasm will be great. People will be happy to have the Gasteig here for a while, because a beautiful cultural site is being created here, which it already was to some extent and which will be greatly enhanced by the building work. I think it will be a nice mix with everything that already exists here in the area – the carpenter, the tyre dealer, with the dance events at the local dance studio.

You have already been involved in many construction projects in Munich, including the Siemens headquarters at Wittelsbacherplatz and the Hofstatt Munich site. What makes the »Gasteig Sendling« project unique?
I would say the cooperation with the many people on site, the residents and the people who work here in the area, and with the media. Then there is the unique environment – urban yet so close to the grassy floodplains of the river Isar. Another special feature is the juxtaposition of old buildings, such as the listed transformer hall, and new construction projects.

What particularly appeals to you about this project?
I was born in Munich and have, of course, heard many a concert in the Gasteig, but I was not aware before that there was such a big cultural enterprise behind it. I was a little bit awed initially, because Gasteig Sendling is a large and complex project. But mainly I was pleased, because you don’t get to work on such a large-scale cultural project every day. I am particularly interested in identifying boundaries, in what and how I communicate, both externally and internally.

Do you ever get into a sweat?
That’s part of everyday working life. You need a good deal of experience and routine to be able to trust in your ability to smooth the waves and solve problems. That’s our job. There is a saying »Building is the last adventure of civilization«, and I think there is a good deal of truth to that. I cannot plan a whole day completely in advance; unexpected events always happen.

How do you keep a cool head?
On long walks with my dog Sheila, who is a mixture of terrier, husky and poodle. Sometimes she is allowed to tag along to the site on Saturdays, if I just come to have a quick look.

»Building is the last adventure of civilization!«

The daily inspection walk

How does your typical workday start here at the building site?
I try to be the first and usually come at the same time as the guard just before six in the morning. The first thing I do each morning is to check whether the pumps are still running. Down in the cellar of the listed transformer hall, we came across groundwater that has to be pumped out before new construction can begin. The hall, after all, is to become the central forum for all visitors to the Gasteig.

Do you have a favourite place on the Gasteig building site?
Oh yes: an underground passage that did not appear on the site drawings. It leads from the cellar of the transformer hall under Brudermühlstraße and ends in the secured area of the municipal power plant. I discovered this tunnel sometime in the cellar, kept walking and suddenly found myself face to face with guards from the power station. The hall used to be a warehouse for transformers; naturally, many pipes and cables run underground here. For now, we have blocked the passage to prevent unauthorised access to the power plant. The terrain here is so exciting.

You are a trained precision engineer and were a radar technician in the German air force. Which skills are indispensable in your profession as an architect and site manager?
Structured thinking with absolute certainty, a good deal of technical understanding, subject expertise and social competence, I would say. Order and cleanliness are also very important to me.

Long since completed: Drilling work for the Philharmonic Hall
© Robert Haas

Among the most memorable moments on the site for you are … ?
… the amber light of dawn on the concreting work outside: the haunting smell of fresh concrete combined with this light is like heaven to me. The smell is difficult to describe, maybe a little like wood and wet stone, like when you are in the mountains and it has been raining.

On a topical issue: How are you dealing with the corona crisis on building sites?
Privately and on site, we try to live normality where none can be found – but it must go on and we try to spread confidence and not let ourselves be driven crazy. The shell construction of the interim Philharmonic Hall is currently being built at record speed and has so far not been halted by the virus – albeit under the strictest security measures. Of course, we are happy about that, even if it is exhausting. Home office work is not possible in our job – we will do our best!

You can follow the progress at the Gasteig’s interim quarters from June 2019 to May 2020 in this time-lapse video. Our live camera also broadcasts continuously updated pictures of the construction site.

Interview and text: Maria Zimmerer
Photos: Robert Haas (cover photo and drilling), Gasteig München GmbH/Maria Zimmerer

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