Obituary: Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Heinz Wind

Prof. Heinz Wind died, after a severe illness, on August 20, 2010, shortly before his 80th birthday.

During his thirty-seven years in the construction industry, Heinz Wind played a definitive role as an engineer in the creation of many demanding structures, and was involved, as a mentor and example, in the professional and personal development of numerous young engineers.

After completing his first degree at the University of Applied Sciences in Hanover, Heinz Wind joined the technical office of Julius Berger AG in Hamburg, working on industrial and port structures. After only two years, he was seconded abroad, to work on the Maracaibo Bridge site, in Venezuela. Numerous projects for branch offices both in Germany and abroad followed, until Heinz Wind (working by this time for Philipp Holzmann) took over for three years responsibility for the site office on the major Hofuf irrigation project in Saudi Arabia. These two foreign site appointments, with their demands for the submission of good solutions ready for implementation and precise work scheduling for technically demanding tasks, involving both economic and completion-time challenges, shaped him decisively.

It was in Venezuela, too, that he acquired his nickname of “Chico”, which he in later years would himself use to call young colleagues to him, to assign them even more new work!

In 1963, Heinz Wind moved, together with his friend, Dr.-Ing. Hanns Simons, to Philipp Holzmann AG, where they were jointly responsible for the setting-up of the new Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering, Hydraulic Engineering and Tunnelling department at the company‘s home office in Frankfurt. When Hanns Simons was appointed to the Chair of Geotechnology at the Technical University of Braunschweig in 1974, it was only natural that Heinz Wind would be his successor as head of the department, and also continue his friend‘s series of lectures on special areas of soil mechanics, foundation and civil-engineering-orientated hydraulic engineering at the Technical University of Darmstadt. Heinz Wind was awarded an honorary professorship at this university in 1986. During the vacancy of the Chair, in April 1992, Prof. Wind took over on an interim basis the management of the department, and of the Versuchsanstalt für Bodenmechanik und Grundbau (Test Institute for Soil Mechanics and Founda-tion Engineering) for a period of one year. His dedicated work resulted in the founding of the Förderverein der Freunde des Instituts für Geotechnik (Friends of the Geotechnical Institute) of the University of Darmstadt, of which Prof. Wind was chairman for the following ten years.

Even more significant than his activities at the Technical University was, however, the work which Heinz Wind performed as holder of procuration in the technical department of the Philipp Holzmann AG construction group. Prof. Wind possessed technical knowledge and experience of enormous breadth, enabling him to provide expert advice to his colleagues in the on-site sectors in the fields of harbour, dam, lock, tidal barrage, hydropower and quay engineering, seawater desalination, tunnel engineering in solid and unconsolidated rock, excavator, D&B, TBM and underwater tunnelling, compressed-air caissons, construction trenching, foundation and specialised underground work - to mention but a few. It is impossible to overstate the importance of Heinz Wind‘s role in elaborating special proposals for all the company‘s branches in Germany and, most of all, for Philipp Holzmann AG‘s foreign department. He was, at all times, simply “bursting” with ideas for alternative ways of achieving the customer‘s targets – his “brainstorming” was famous – feared, even, by some of his colleagues. He could not tolerate “narrow-minded” people, and saw rules and regulations only as guidelines – in his view, it was legitimate to diverge from the “straightforward”, conventional path – you just had to prove it was the technically correct option.

Under Heinz Wind‘s management, Department T3 was the training establishment par excellence at Philipp Holzmann AG. Not a few of the group‘s site managers and subsequent top managerial staff passed through his hands here. Nowadays, T3 „graduates“ can be encountered throughout the building industry, and at numerous universities.

Another facet of Heinz Wind‘s professional activities was his role as an inventor, researcher and a developer of new building methods. For many years, he managed the group‘s largest R&D budget, generating patents and new developments in the fields, inter alia, of tunnel-boring machines (TBMs) and tunnel linings using segmental-support and shotcrete methods, the use of glass in waste-water systems and landfill sealing membranes, a walk-on base seal for high-security landfills and a ballastless track for high-speed rail routes. Numerous publications under Wind‘s own name, and also his involvement as an anonymous co-author in the group‘s technical brochures and the reports of several successive boards, bear witness to his development achievements. Heinz Wind served many colleagues and directors of the Holzmann subsidiaries of that period as a technical consultant and advisor. Last, but certainly not least, Heinz Wind also contributed his knowledge and experience to the technical committees of the German Geotechnical Society (DGGT) and of the standardisation organisations.

His former pupils and colleagues mourn with his family a friendly, engaging but nonetheless modest man who was always of exemplary personal conduct and demeanour.

It was a privilege and a joy to work with him.

Dr. Knut Langhagen


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