Alumni: bridge builder writes books

During his time as a civil engineering student, structural engineer Koen van Doremaele developed a taste not only for travelling, but also for writing.

Koen van Doremaele was in Antarctica for his work last year. (Photo: Koen van Doremaele)

Bridges and books. Mention those words and Koen van Doremaele starts to smile from ear to ear. Take the Botlek Bridge, for example, which had so many structural problems during its construction. Problems that, as a structural engineer at Ballast Nedam, Van Doremaele helped to solve. That was what he calls ‘a really cool project’. 

He waxes lyrical about the bridge that most likely frustrated many drivers: “The foundations are 20 metres under water and comparable to those laid for a block of flats. And we had sixty-metre-high towers with gearboxes on top and a bridge deck the size of a football field.”

When he was at school he considered a career in the army or in sports, yet he decided to study technology. His goal: to design something tangible that can be
used for decades. On an information day, he was told that if he didn’t like civil engineering, he could always switch to architecture. But he actually liked it.

After a year in the Delftsche Studenten Bond, he joined the Punch basketball association, of which he eventually became president. He wrote many articles for the club magazine. “About both serious stories and rumours, that went down well,” he comments. After six months, he went abroad. 

He caught the travel bug during a student project in Tanzania. After graduating in 2009 – his project was about metal fatigue in bridge plates – he spent a month relaxing in Costa Rica and Panama before joining Ballast Nedam. His job took him to the Philippines for six months, where he helped a contractor with a power plant.

After 7.5 years he started working for construction firm BAM, for which company he built five wind turbine foundations in Newcastle, England. And he’s been to Antarctica several times to dismantle and rebuild a quay wall.

During his travels, he kept a travel blog. He even won a prize for an article about a trek to Machu Picchu. “People suggested I should do something with my writing talent, and write a book. So, one day a week, I would write three pages an hour.” And that’s how his self-published comedy thriller Nonius came into being, about a boy from the polder who wants to conquer an island.

In his second book, Het Sapri Schandaal (The Scandal of Sapri), published in 2018, he incorporated elements from his first book that he believed needed improvement. Sapri is a village south of Naples. Van Doremaele went there on holiday with friends and got an idea for the plot sitting on a café terrace. The story is about a bridge (surprise!) and the mafia sabotaging a construction site. 

  • Name: Koen van Doremaele
  • City of residence: ‘s Hertogenbosch
  • Marital status: single
  • Education: Civil Engineering
  • Assocciations: One year Delftsche Studenten Bond, six years Punch Basketbal
News editor Connie van Uffelen

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