Together on HOCHTIEF projects
Hagen Schroth is an enthusiastic runner and overall responsible for the Tacheles project in Berlin. The support of schedule coordinator Melanie Keil represents a key pillar for the project's success.
Melanie Keil is one of the many HOCHTIEF employees who have worked for us even during their studies. The civil engineer, who completed her master's degree at TU Berlin in 2016, already supported HOCHTIEF's activities in the German capital as a working student. "My first major project in permanent employment was Mercedes Platz, where we built a new inner-city quarter with a mix of leisure and cultural uses as well as restaurants, offices and hotels," says the ambitious civil engineer. She is currently involved in another of HOCHTIEF's mega-projects in the Spree metropolis: the redevelopment of the Tacheles site between Friedrichstrasse, Oranienburger Strasse and Johannisstrasse. There she is something of a "master of deadlines" - but more on that later. Then as now, Melanie Keil worked in the team of Hagen Schroth, who was in charge of both projects as the overall project manager or is in charge of them today.
Tacheles: New life for old building
Together with many colleagues from HOCHTIEF, the Schroth/Keil duo is breathing new life into the surroundings of Berlin's most famous ruin. At the beginning of the 20th century, the building was one of the city's largest and most magnificent shopping arcades. When the artists' initiative Tacheles occupied what was left of it after years of decline in 1990, shortly before it was finally demolished, it was given its current name. Ten years after the eviction, a new start is now imminent. By mid-2023, the 85,000-square-meter site will be home to a quarter for modern living, working and shopping - and art is also to find a home here.
When Hagen Schroth talks about his professional life, the project manager often uses terms from running. He sometimes pursues his passion at "four in the morning or around 8 p.m.". It can be that the routes are short and intense in the morning, and long and enduring towards the evening. This also applies to his work. One example: "The projects I've managed over the past few years have certainly corresponded to a kind of uphill climb," explains the "boss of it all" at the construction site in the heart of the German capital. "First there were smaller, but already very technical buildings; then larger ones that were very sophisticated in terms of their structure. And now here at Tacheles, everything is united."
Building from tradition
Schroth is ideally prepared for this task, and not just from a family background. Both parents worked in construction. "One wanted to break out, but didn't make it after all," he recounts looking back. He initially completed a carpentry apprenticeship, then caught up with his Abitur at night school and graduated as a construction technician. In 1994, he joined HOCHTIEF as a young construction manager, at the same time completing a correspondence course in business administration. In his dealings with his colleagues, one thing is important to him: "A mere degree does not show whether someone is suited to the diversity of a construction site. It's the work in practice that ultimately makes it clear whether people can do it - or not."
Moving to the capital, working in the Hanseatic city
The first projects quickly landed on Schroth's desk, first in the Cottbus area, then in Berlin, "where I never wanted to go because it was actually too cramped for me." But the really "big things" are waiting in the capital. He has been working there since 2007 - with a short detour to Hamburg: "The Elbphilharmonie challenged me for four years with a great task. There I was responsible for the large concert hall." After that, the redesign of Mercedes Platz first needed his expertise, and since the beginning of 2019, the Tacheles.
Desire for responsibility
In view of this list of major projects, the question suggests itself: "Did you always want to take responsibility for such projects?" Hagen Schroth weighs up before answering. "Yes, I think I wanted to. I wanted that to get ahead." On the construction site, he says, there needs to be someone who wears the hat and clearly tells the story. Someone who pulls the strings, both for the clients, for the HOCHTIEF branch and for the company's own employees. "This requires commitment and the desire to challenge oneself every day. I seem to want all of that." And that brings us back to (long) running.
Proper planning is half the battle
For an energy-sapping marathon like the construction work on the Tacheles, even the best athlete needs support. This is where Melanie Keil enters the race. The "schedule acrobat" keeps track of all the appointments - and of course there are a lot of them on such a large construction site. "Even before construction starts, I look at all parts of the process chain, for example the duration of workshop and assembly planning, but also delivery times and logistics, which is a big challenge in the center of Berlin." All of this has to be taken into account; after all, (almost) everything builds on each other. In the end, Melanie Keil drafts a schedule and coordinates it closely with the responsible site management, which ensures that one wheel meshes with the other on the construction site.
Theory put to the test
But here, too, just because there is a plan doesn't mean that everything will go according to it. That's why Melanie Keil, who also likes to try to approach things in a structured way in her private life, is not only a scheduler, but also a controller. "Every month, we compare the plan with what we've actually accomplished. After all, the overall environment is particularly challenging in this case." If certain targets are not met, readjustments are made, tweaks are made here and there, processes are improved and one or the other adjusting screw is turned. Then, ideally, the actual state matches the target state again - and the handover deadline agreed with the customer can be met.
Know-how makes it possible
Hagen Schroth and Melanie Keil are now a well-rehearsed duo who, together with the entire team, tackle the technical and commercial challenges of a complex project like the Tacheles in a spirited manner. Without HOCHTIEF's expertise, many of the architects' ideas would not have been feasible. Piece by piece, the project is currently turning into the final straight line, and the goal is already (almost) in sight.