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Mrs Simonsen, the firm's secretary who also functions as receptionist, cashier and cook, carefully shares out the meagre rations of paper and pencils, and makes sure that all note paper is used on both sides.Denmark is paralysed, and all design work is put on hold. Ostenfeld travels to every corner of Denmark making sure that the most important projects are kept alive to guarantee the firm's survival.
Attached with drawing pins to a door at the office is a sign that reads "Secret Service". Behind the door sit an engineer and a draughtsman, both of whom are busy designing new residential homes.The Danish authorities fear a vast increase in unemployment once the war ends, and subsidies are therefore granted for the design of civil engineering projects that can get started as soon as the war is over. This allows the firm to continue its engineering activities without any fear of being seen as collaborationist, and enables it to make a head start on the post-war planning work.
Once the war ends, it is relatively easy for the firm to set the wheels in motion again – it is simply a matter of finding the plans already drawn up by the engineers and dusting them off.Contact is re-established with Scandinavian and European colleagues as soon as it is safe to communicate and travel freely again.
It is not just the amount of work that expands. Joining the staff is 23-year-old geotechnical engineer, Lauritz Bjerrum.It is unusual for an engineering consultancy at this time to employ a geotechnical engineer, but it means that the firm now has the expertise to calculate the depth of foundations required for the load-bearing sections of a building or a bridge, and to plan accordingly.
Together with Lauritz Bjerrum, Ostenfeld invents a telescopic drill that tests the bearing capacity of deep soil layers by measuring the pressure in the ground. Bjerrum subsequently goes on to undertake soil mechanics research and to found the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute. He remains Ostenfeld's personal consultant on all large-scale geotechnical projects in Denmark and abroad until his death.Soil mechanics highlights the interconnection between soil and man-made structures. The firm establishes a specialist department in the field which, 60 years later, has become a veritable centre of excellence.Its experience proves to be absolutely indispensable when the firm is asked to oversee the design of the new Copenhagen Metro during the period 1994-2002.
Svend E. PetersenCOWI's Historical Collectionsepx@cowi.com
Read other chapters from COWI's history:1930 - 19401940 - 19451945 - 19501950 - 19601960 - 19701970 - 19801980 - 19901990 - 20002000 - 2010