‘My time at Losberger was very important for my professional development’

Construction historian and university lecturer Karl-Eugen Kurrer

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Karl-Eugen Kurrer is one of Germany’s leading construction historians. Kurrer, born in 1952 in Heilbronn, has written several books and publications on this subject and was the editor-in-chief of the journal ‘Stahlbau’ for over twenty years. Now, he is a lecturer on the master’s degree in civil engineering at the Coburg University of Applied Sciences, where he is responsible for the area of History of Technology for engineers in the summer semester. Karl-Eugen Kurrer is also a former trainee and employee of Losberger. In fact, the time he spent with our company, has been instrumental to him: “I learned a great deal at Losberger. The experience I gained while working there was very important for my professional development”, says Karl-Eugen Kurrer.

 

Karl-Eugen Kurrer was a student at the Staatsbauschule Stuttgart (now Hochschule für Technik Stuttgart), when during his summer semester break between 1971 and 1973, he started working as a trainee in the design office Hallenbau at Losberger in his home town of Heilbronn. After his graduation, he returned to Losberger to work there as a structural engineer. Karl-Eugen Kurrer has fond memories of his time at Losberger. “Ah, yes. Everything was just so positive. In just a few months’ time, I learned a great deal, both as an engineer and as a person. Losberger was the first company I ever worked at, so almost everything of the practical side of being an engineer, I learned at Losberger.”

 

At the Hans Rießer Straße 7, he came under the tutelage of Herr Spindler, who proved to be an outstanding coach for the talented and eager Karl-Eugen. “I learned a lot from him. Working in his team was great fun, partly because they didn’t treat me like a trainee. Being one myself, I have a special interest in teachers and Herr Spindler was fantastic. He was always available for questions and coached me when I needed coaching, but he also gave me a lot of freedom.”

 

The right approach

The approach his coach and colleagues took, proved to be just what the young Karl-Eugen needed. “It was my first job, my first time working in a team, with actual colleagues. They were very good to me. I could get all the help I wanted, but also had every opportunity to figure things out for myself. They were not afraid to give me big projects too.”

 

How big? Well… “I started working on the Aussegnungshalle Frankenbach early on, in 1971. That was a very complex structure. In fact, it was so complex, that nobody really wanted to do it.” With help from his colleagues and his mentor, Karl-Eugen Kurrer was able to get the construction drawings done. “The architect designed the outer form of the rafters as curved beams with variable rectangular cross-sections, which are offset in height. This resulted in spatially curved surfaces between the fields in which e.g. the wind braces had to be arranged. Which, thanks to the geometrical shapes and the many different surface areas, was not easy to do. But I loved the challenge and had a lot of help from Herr Spindler and the team. Many of my colleagues had a lot of experience with the practical side of things. It was great, I still have a copy of the project documents.”

 

Another big project Karl-Eugen Kurrer worked on, was the national library in Karlsruhe. “That one was very complicated as well. A polygon structure with a lot of different surface areas. Stability was a major issue here.” Through those complex assignments, and thanks to the level of trust he received from his coach, Karl-Eugen Kurrer was able to grow as an engineer. “You know, at first I was only supposed to do calculations. But right from the start, they let me do everything, from planning to designing, from the first calculations to the very last nail. Again, they gave me the freedom to do it all, but they were there for me every step of the way. As a team, they were very uncomplicated and focused on finding the best possible solution to a challenge. Throughout my career, I have tried to maintain that mentality.” Both projects were glue-laminated constructions, a construction technique Losberger applied at the time but has stopped using some time ago.

 

The first semi-permanent halls

During his time at Losberger, Karl-Eugen Kurrer also played a part in one of the biggest transitions the company has ever went through: the transition to making mobile structures. Karl-Eugen Kurrer was part of the team that started working on the first semi-permanent halls. It was an important change of direction for the company. “At that time, there were hardly any mobile structures, they were all permanent. Now, Losberger De Boer is one of the best in the world at designing, producing and building mobile constructions. You have a lot of state of the art, modern structures, it’s quite impressive. But at that time, companies were just starting to develop mobile structures. The key was to make the load-bearing structure easy to assemble and disassemble and easy to transport. I think that in combination with the arched roofs, we came up with a very effective and elegant solution that combined regular building techniques with new features that are still used in halls today.” The first halls the team designed were used for tennis and agricultural purposes. They marked the start of a new and important development for Losberger.

 

Back to school

Karl-Eugen Kurrer later returned to school. He studied civil engineering and physical engineering sciences at the Technische Universität Berlin. He then went on to become a tutor in the theory of structures department. As a tutor, he wanted to help create a deeper sense of the motivation for and enjoyment of the learning of structural analysis. Since 1980, his many articles on the history of science and technology in general and construction history in particular have appeared in journals, newspapers, books and exhibition publications.

 

Karl-Eugen Kurrer completed his PhD, on the internal kinematic and kinetic of tube vibratory mills, with the highest level of distinction (summa cum laude), at TU Berlin. During his time at Telefunken, he contributed to the development of a new eccentric vibratory mill that uses 50 % less energy than comparable models.

 

Construction History

For more than 35 years, Karl-Eugen Kurrer has carried out research on the subject of Construction History with a special emphasis on structural theory. He is one of the countries’ leading historians on construction technology. He wrote several books about this subject; his latest published works are The History of the Theory of Structures (2018) and Erddruck (2019, with Achim Hettler).

 

From 1996 to 2018, he was editor-in-chief of the journal ‘Stahlbau’. Since then, he has worked as a lecturer on the master's degree in civil engineering at the Coburg University of Applied Sciences, where he is responsible for the area of History of Technology in the summer semester, something he loves to do. “I am very much aware of the fact that both as a student and as a young engineer, I had a lot of help from the people at Losberger. They really helped me become a better engineer. Now it is time for me to pass on what I know to the new generation, to help young engineers with their development. It feels like giving something back - and that feels really good.”

 

Karl-Eugen Kurrer still occasionally thinks of his time at Losberger; he was one of the first to congratulate the company on reaching its centennial status. “Losberger has made a lasting impression on me. I’ve always kept following Losberger and now Losberger De Boer. I am happy to see that the company that has been so good to me, that gave me the opportunity to learn and to gain experience, is doing so well!”