Teamwork was my pet project – Smaraglay László said goodby to KÖZTI after 42 years
2022. April 7.
He had arrived as a fresh graduate and left as the director. KÖZTI and Smaraglay László had been mutually molding one another for the past four decades. It is partly due to his efforts that vocation and family life, professional work and the informal pleasures of life both have their place within KÖZTI. Retrospective talk.
How did your career start?
As a teenager, I wanted to be a teacher of history and mathematics, but such pairing was not possible at the university, only mathematics – physics and history – Hungarian. Architecture attracted me because there are both mathematics and art involved, this is why I chose the Faculty of Architecture. But after five years at the university, I knew that I was more of an engineer than an artist, I felt closer to mathematics, so I turned to structural engineering.
You have never worked anywhere else but at KÖZTI – how did you find it?
In 1979, design offices invited fresh graduates by an announcement posted in the aula of the university. KÖZTI was an important office even then and I wanted to work as a structural engineer at such a prestigious office, where I could learn from excellent mentors. I had joined KÖZTI as junior structural designer, got promoted and later worked as senior structural designer at Department II. under Szajka László, mostly on healthcare projects. But I have also discovered that, in spite of all the beauty and preciseness in my work, I was more attracted to organizational issues.
How did this manifest?
I had been interested in the matters of KÖZTI ever since I joined the company and my collegues knew about it. So in 1986, when the organizational changes began and a management committee was founded, I was chosen as one of the two representatives of the employees. When KÖZTI became a share company in 1991 and the members of the management committee became members of the board of directors and executives of the company, I was elected chairman of the supervisory committee. This was an important controlling position, but the most important part of my work, besides the affairs of the company, was the relationship with my collegues, dealing with matters concerning them. This was closer to my heart than the business matters. I had always had good personal relationship with my collegues and I remember many important talks.
In what positions did you get acquainted with the matters of KÖZTI?
I worked as the head of KÖZTI’s marketing department between 1993-1996, then I was appointed deputy managing director beside director Tibor Hübner. Our cooperation had lasted for seven years, the last few of them were also used to groom me for the responsible post of the director. Nevertheless, reaching the upper echelons of the company has never been the most important thing for me, I had rather wanted to leave a mark in the life of the community.
KÖZTI has got a lot from you in this field – what do you remember fondly?
In the years before 1988, as young architects and engineers at KÖZTI, we wanted to establish a kind of professional periodical which would really attract our own generation. I became head of the editorial board and worked with six young and talented collegues on the issues. Altogether seven issues had been compiled, I still have a few of them. We also organized ski tours, and took part in the annual sports festivals at Verőcemaros, organized by District 5. of Budapest, in gradually increasing numbers. I had been captain of our minifootball team for many years, we organized study tours in Hungary and also abroad, we had a quite lively community life within KÖZTI.
The way you speak about these suggests you think back to your decades at KÖZTI with pleasure…
Even in my letter of application – today it would be called a motivation letter – the most important sentence stated that I wanted to work at KÖZTI because I wanted to work in a community, in teamwork. I cannot imagine myself alone in any situation of life and KÖZTI has given me the community I longed for. When I was the director of the company and had to talk about the buildings we had designed, I always emphasized the work of my collegues, because principally a building is the product of the architects and engineers. I only directed and organized from the background, to provide the best possible environment for the highest quality work. This teamwork was my pet project. And, according to my wife, KÖZTI was my love.
If you have mentioned your wife, lets talk about your background…
My family life is determined by the sense of community as well. I am a practicing Roman Catholic, the love and providence of God is very important in my life. I have a big family, my wife and I have been together for 47 years. We have four sons, each with a family of his own, there are grandchildren. We have learnt that the more children there are, the more happiness they bring, I recommend this to everybody. Beeing together is also important in my free time, I hike a lot with my wife and my family members. High mountains have always attracted me, so we travelled to Peru where we hiked along the Inca Path, visited the Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal and together with my three younger sons we climbed the Kilimanjaro.
Who were your professional mentors?
I have learnt everything that I know about structural design and the love of of work from my first boss, Szajka László. He also taught me precisity. Though the relationship between boss and subordinate is never completely smooth, we are still friends to this day. My other mentor was Hübner Tibor, my predecessor on the post of director at KÖZTI. It is an interesting side note, that he was the opponent of my diploma work. When I became director after many years spent as his deputy, I still talked over the actual matters of the company with Tibor for a long time, he gave good counsel and supported me as a kind of adviser. And last but not least an important mentor of mine was dr. Árvay Ernőné, who had been the lawyer of KÖZTI for decades. She taught me about the legal maze of company management.
Now, that you take part in the life of KÖZTI as an adviser, what is your message for the fresh graduates, the next professional generation?
I have always asked my collegues to come to work cheerfully, to love their work and ask for help if they have difficulties. There is always someone to help, KÖZTI is not only a professional but also a social community. And they should enjoy their work, this is the most important. Another message: they should have dreams! Architecture helps in this respect, as every project begins with a dream on the table, which grows into walls and buildings for others to use and enjoy. For this kind of work it is necessary to have a community, to work in a team, in order to create excellent buildings. I hope, I have given my contribution to this as the director of KÖZTI.