From a dressing table to large complex buildings

The choice to become a construction engineer was almost a foregone conclusion. However, originally he was thinking of becoming an aerospace engineer. But when he realised that the only course was in Luleå, around 1,100 km away, it felt too far away for a guy from Lidköping. So instead he decided to go to Chalmers in Gothenburg to study Civil Engineering, and Johan has never looked back.

“It’s amazing to be involved in creating something as concrete as a building that is going to be there for such a long period of time. It’s also a great feeling to see a project completed that I’ve been involved in and worked on from start,” says Johan.

“It’s amazing to be involved in creating something as concrete as a building that is going to be there for such a long period of time. ”
Johan Ström

He started working as a construction engineer for COWI in 2006. He was soon given responsibilities in projects, which he describes as being challenging and incredibly instructive.

Johan now works as Head of Section and assignment/project leader. For him, the best thing about COWI is the projects and his colleagues.

“We work with customers who have extremely interesting and exciting projects, and we are surrounded by colleagues who support and back each other up. This is so reassuring and helps you to develop. It’s important to enjoy your job, and this is something we do.”

It was technology that grabbed Johan’s interest from the start, but what he enjoys most now are the deals, the projects and the people he collaborates with. As well as having a good working relationship with his colleagues, he wants to create long-term relationships with his customers and project members from other companies.

“Of course, I’m still interested in technology, but it is primarily the people who make this job so enjoyable and inspiring.”

A building that stands out

One project that he is particularly proud of is Aula Medica, Karolinska Institutet’s spectacular lecture hall complex in Solna, which is where, for example, the Nobel Prize Lectures are held. It was a project that was full of challenges.

“The entire building actually challenges the laws of physics. When you have such a heavy structure that leans so much, it is crucial to have a solid structural design and the right choice of materials. At the beginning the idea was to have a shell made of wood, but at the end of the day steel was the only choice to ensure that the structure could withstand the strain,” says Johan.

“The entire building actually challenges the laws of physics. When you have such a heavy structure that leans so much, it is crucial to have a solid structural design and the right choice of materials.”
Johan Ström

Aula Medica was named Årets bygge 2014 (Building of the Year 2014). COWI was also awarded the Stålbyggnadspriset 2015 (Steel Building Prize 2015) and the ECCS International Award of Merit 2015 for this project.

“Of course, I’m extremely proud to have been involved in this project. Everyone in the project showed such a high level of commitment and we shared a clear set of goals. This produced excellent results.”

Construction challenges

Another project that Johan has worked on is the Partille Arena, a new multi-purpose arena for sports and cultural events outside Gothenburg. The design of the arena is complex with curved geometries, and a range of widely differing activities in the same building. As the arena is so close to the E20 highway, COWI had to dimension for explosion loads, which presented challenges for the construction process.

“I love sports and played handball for many years when I was growing up, and both my sons play handball today. That’s why it’s so enjoyable to work on arenas.”

Other examples of projects that Johan mentions are Campus Albano, a new campus area in Norra Djurgården in Stockholm, a new innovation centre for Volvo in Gothenburg, a hospital building in Saudi Arabia, and a specially designed dressing table in an architectural villa.

“Designing and calculating a dressing table is maybe the smallest project I’ve done. And this is what I like about my job, the wide variety of projects, from large to small,” he says.

The motto is to work together

Johan highlights how important effective collaboration is, and says that there is good collaboration at COWI between technical areas, departments, offices and countries.

“There is always someone to ask for help. The competence is here. And there is every opportunity to develop and progress.”

As a manager he thinks that it is important to be there for his employees, to listen, and to tell people when they have done a good job.

What is the secret behind a successful project?

“Collaboration, communication and a clear set of goals. It is about getting everyone to understand what and why we are doing something. And that we are doing this together. Everyone needs to know that they are playing their part, otherwise things won’t work.”

Get in contact

Johan Ström
Head of Section
Structural Engineering, Sweden

Tel: +46 108501082