RETUR TO TABLE OF CONTENTS

BUILDING AND DOCUMENTATION

Table Of Contents

BUILDING CLASSIFICATION COMMITTEE.............................................1

THE INSTITUTE FOR BUILDING DOCUMENTATION......................................2

THE INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTATION CENTER........................................3

THE CIB ROTTERDAM CONFERANCE..................................................4

THE SWEDISH BUILDING INFORMATION SERVICE......................................6

 

 

Different projects overlapped and the office started a new larger project. Because of the Östberga project, which was very large for its time, it was decided to produce a similar large project, Norra Haga, in the city of Västerås to press building costs. The local building firms in the 50´s were small. In order to get scale advantage four building firms were engaged to each build its part but according to common drawings.

 

LMG had discovered my organisational interest and I was appointed to write the minutes of the planning meetings with the owners HSB, the four building firms and the office staff. Writing notes concerning building activities was something I had already done very early for a project at Bremerhaven when I still was a bricklayer apprentice.

 

This time both I and the task was more advanced. I came to understand that those who write the minutes of meetings have influence by clearly trying to define the results of discussions if the meeting makes decisions but does not put them into a clear wording. As the spelling still had to be checked my boss had the last word if I was to free with my opinion.

 

BUILDING CLASSIFICATION COMMITTEE

 

Before starting his own architectural office LMG was director of the Swedish Architects Association, SAR. In that function he was the Swedish representative in the United Nations International Building Research Council, CIB. Within this large body he was elected chairman of the Building Classification Committee.

 

This was before the computer age and large random retrieval methods. Information retrieval had to be based upon logical hierarchical order of documents and indexing within these systems.

 

Within CIB all countries agreed to use the decimal classification system. Tables were printed not only in English but in many languages, even Japanese. This coordination was organised from Hagelby, the seat of the chairman.

 

In many countries some of the most gifted professionals were engaged in this systematic analysis of building knowledge, materials and methods. From England for example Michael Ventries an architect, who also decyphered the Cretean linear B script, was a visitor to Hagelby. Unfortunately he died in a motorcycle accident before I could come to know him.

 

THE INSTITUTE FOR BUILDING DOCUMENTATION

 

The other Swedish member organisations of the UN International Building Research Council (CIB) were the Swedish Council for Building Research, a government department and The Building Information Service, a non-profit company owned by associations concerned with building activities in Sweden.

 

LMG was a member of the CIB because he was director of the Swedish Architect Association a position he left when starting his own architectural office. Because of his work in the Classification Committee he had been still a temporary member – but now he had to leave.

 

I suggested that he should establish a foundation to finance an institution because according to Swedish law one could operate most any activity in the legal form of a foundation. We arrived at the Name "Swedish Institute for Building Documentation" and the aim of the foundation was to be studying and developing building information systems in general and classification systems in general. Remember that since Linné, Berzellius and others systematic classification was a Swedish speciality.

 

LMG thought his family lawyer (Vicke Mossbergs father) might not be the right person to ask for help in such an unorthodox matter so I suggested my friend Uncas Serner as an exeption from my rule not to mix social and professional life. Uncas drew up the documents and the foundation was accepted officially as a non-profit organisation. With support from the other Swedish members of CIB the institute became also a member of CIB. Thus the chairmanship of the classification committee could remain at Hagelby.

 

For my part this meant that I got two jobs (even two different rooms). I became Technical Secretary of the foundation as a half time job and working in the architectural office the other half.

 

Now LMG and the other Swedish CIB members became interested in establishing my professional status. As I still was a German citicen they wrote to the German Architect and Engineers Association (DAI) that I should be accepted as a regular member with them, because of my work with the institute and with experimental building projects, even though I did not have a formal graduation.

 

 

In due time I became a member and could now put DAI behind my name. This was actually not very important to me but it was thought to be desirable for our international contacts.

 

THE INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTATION CENTER

 

One day a young Dutch man came to Hågelby, just like I did a few years earlier, without long notice. But he had a recommendation from architect Dan Fink from Danmark who was the secretary of the Classification Committee. His name was Henri de Mink.

 

He had started to work with microfiches to reproduce manuscripts and books. This was a new technique and Henri had developed more efficient methods to photograph and to reproduce microfiches. Dan Fink believed in this development and wondered if LMG could help in some way. Vicke Mossberg had just moved his workshop and there was the possibility to move to the Garden House which he accepted.

 

Henri de Mink called his firm International Documentation Center, IDC. There was no direct connection to building documentation.

 

Henri de Mink had originally a Rotary scholarship to Sweden for one year. The club in Holland who sponsored him had at that time as president the Swedish ambassador to the Netherlands. This ambassador was now the highest official at the Royal Court of Sweden and as such a key contact with the  Kungliga Biblioteket, the National Library of Sweden. Henri de Mink got permission as the first person to copy old manuscrips and incunables to microfiches.

 

Later he copied and reproduced the Linné herbarium in England, old scientific journals from the St Petersburg libraries with a camera in Helsinki, old records from concilia a.o with a camera in the Vatican and he had cameras in several key cities until he had an enormous collection of microfiche originals and copies.

 

In the 1960´s he decided to move the entire collection to Holland and the sales organisation to Switzerland. His customers were all over the world.

 

To-day much of this and similar documentation is found on computers in digital form. But at his time this was a huge step ahead and the microfiches were used to great advantage in the distribution and retrieval of information. Many universities in developing nations bought much basic research material from Henri de Mink.

 

After de Minks moved back to Leiden I took over the space in the Garden House as storage for my company. And a short time later my wife and I moved to the large flat on the second floor of the House.

 

This I´ll write about in two different chapters as I have not yet written about our marriage. At present I am still concerned with Building Documentation and Information.

 

THE CIB ROTTERDAM CONFERANCE

 

LMG was, as one of the Council Committee Chairmen, one of the more central figures at this conference. He also was a close friend of van Ettinger, the director of the Building Center of the Netherlands at Rotterdam. Van Ettinger was also the chief organiser of the Rotterdam Conference with more than a thousand participants on behalf of CIB.

 

A Picture Postcard I sent to Bremen from Rotterdam

 

Van Ettinger had always been a close contact for our Institute of Buildding Documentation and Sweden and the Netherlands often worked together.

 

One has to remember that the large member nations were the USA, Russia, China just to mention those whose policies had to be balanced most often. This friendship with Holland and van Ettinger continued to be important after LMG went to Ethiopia for Sweden and to Nairobi for the UN.

 

Van Ettinger had a central roll in the Netherlands because he belonged during the war to a secret engineering group affiliated with the Dutch resistance movement and working on detailed plans for rebuilding the cities of Holland after the war - and this behind the backs of the occupation power.

 

This CIB conference was also sponsored by the Shell Oil Company which could provide the space for inviting the entire conference to the main dinner gathering once for all participants. The important work and reports and discussions were usually within smaller groups and the steering company.

 

I had no official function at this conference but I found myself being a kind of contact with others who also did not have any function. We kept together eating and talking on a secondary more private level. I only want to mention three contacts of those because I have them most vivid in mind.

 

There was an older, retired professor from the Technion, Israels Engineering University at Tel Aviv. He was one of the best known soil and foundation experts in the world and he had formulated some of the basic laws of soil (foundations). His name can be found in most Civil Engineering handbooks of that time. He told me that soil engineering is mainly science but there still is a rest of art.

 

However the Israeli delegation was lead by an energetic younger woman engineer also from Tel Aviv. When I saw their group together they were very respectful to the old professor but the youngsters were those in charge.

 

We often sat together because we talked in German. The professor could not speak English very well and preferred German. He was one of the lucky who decided to leave Germany already in the beginning of 1933. He had lost many of his friends in Germany later and told me that he saw the danger from the new leaders very clearly already then – but could not convince his friends and some relatives to leave with him. Arriving in Israel he became one of the founders of the new Technical University at Tel Aviv.

 

Another acquaintace became the family Enrique Ruiz of the Philippines. He and his wife could speak many languages. Chinese, French, Spanish, and English besides the original Philippine language. Their languages reflected the different colonial and other influences on the upper classes in the Philippines.

 

His background was also most interesting. He first studied painting in Paris when he was very young. Back in the Phillippines he became a famous mural painter with many offical commissions.

 

He told me that he became dissatisfied with the architecture he was working on. So he studied architecture in the Philippines and became well known even in that capacitiy with many large projects.

 

He then decided that conventional building methods could not express the new forms he wanted to create. Thus he went to the USA (with his family) to study civil engineering and mathematics at the MIT and especially the advanced concrete construction methods with pre-tensed reinforcments which permitted advanced forms.

 

Now he was Dean of the National Architectural School of the Philippines and had also his own office. But as he was not in the United Nations or CIB buraucracy he had no formal function and thus found himself in our informal group. Returned from the conference he founded the National Housing Movement of the Philippines.

 

I had many later contacts with the Ruiz family by letter but they also visited me at least once in Stockholm. If I remember rightly one son of theirs was married to the Miss World from that time – who came from Finland which also explained their interest in Scandinavia.

 

The only picture from Rotterdam I still have is a picture postcard I sent to my parents from Rotterdam. I told them I had so much to do and could not write very much and that I just had come back from a trip for two days to the Dutch countryside with a friend from El Salvador.

 

He was of my age and had just finished his studies as a civil engineer in Germany. He was asked by some of his family, in some way part of the government, to participate in this conference but he had no official interest. So he also found himself in our club.

 

Another contact, but who was half on our level and half involved with the bigshots, was Ron Baden-Hellard of the British Polycon Group. He later became my partner in a small company in Britain which I left when I became politically elected as mayor of Botkyrka a rapidly developing community where also the estate of Hågelby was situated. But that is another story.

 

THE SWEDISH BUILDING INFORMATION SERVICE

 

Not many month after the large CIB conference we saw a recruiting advertisement for a new rector for the Swedish Building College at Addis Abeba. Much of Swedish assistance was at that time directed to Ethopia. Sweden had also a historic missionary interest in Ethopia.

 

LMG became interested and he was by far the most qualified to seek the appointment. Now came a time for readjustment. The Giertz family had to be prepared to move to Ethiopia with quite short notice.

 

The Institute for Building Documentation was transferred to one of the other CIB members - to the Building Information Service, and I was offered the job to build up the central information archive and its telephone service. Before, the Building Information Service was mainly concerned with exhibitions of materials and equipment.

 

The responsibility for the estate Hagelby was taken over by an older Giertz brother MD G Giertz. All leasing contracts of those having any kind of activity at Hagelby were confirmed.

 

By that time I had already started my own company, with domicile and office at Hagelby, in order to market a filing system developed at the Institute. I had called the company Technocenter Inc in order to indicate the hope for a wider market including technical services if needed – and possible.

 

After an initial period I arranged to have my position with the Building Service as a half time employment in order to develop my own company.

 

One task at the Building Information Service was to build up the archives according to the classification system from our Institute, and the other task was to provide telephone information service to laymen and professionals. The routine information to the public could be handled by a secretary whereas I had mostly to take care of the information to the professionals.

 

Of course, I had accumulated quite a lot of knowledge but realized soon that I had to find a way to get information from other sources than my head or our archive.

 

I had installed a number of telephones which could be used simultanously and I had set up a list from all over Sweden of real experts in many fields who were willing to help.

 

Often I could get very qualified knowledge while the inquirer still was on one phone. I usually said to the inquirer that I would get help from an expert. But sometimes everything went too fast and many probably got the impression that I knew everything.

 

I also had another pleasant task. Sometimes I had to chaperone important professional visitors to Stockholm around town and show them the important milestones in Swedens modern architectural and planning history from the 20´s and 30´s.

 

It astonished me that so much had become internationally known and admired. The professors of architecture had read about many sights and now wanted to see them. The Forest Church Yard of Asplund was such a place and it rightly has been selected as one of UNESCO´s world heritage sites. I could name many more but this is not a dissertation on architecture and planning.

 

In 1964 I left the Building Information Service in order to devote myself for some time entirely to my own company.