Benjamin Javitz - Authorbenjamin.firstname.lastname@example.org
Benjamin Javitz - Photographerbenjamin.email@example.com
2022 marks the first fully physical Armada since the pandemic - and that's fantastic. While a lot of the fancy TV screens and VR goggles, goodiebags at the fair, the samba dancers and magicians during the banquet can be explained by just saying "Ah, it's the companies, they just have money to throw at this thing," two things did really impress me: the amount of carpet and how the students behind Armada made it all come together.
It’s the Saturday before Armada, the beginning of Construction Weekend, around 16:00. I meet Project Manager Filip in the KTH library. He’s been planning this for almost a year - he is one of the 12 members of the THS management team who work full-time on their positions.
“Right now it's going well. We had a bit of a rough start this morning. When we got here, no one had access to the library because they forgot to enable that access for everyone. So we had to call security. They sent a guard over and he let us in and could give access to one person in our team. For some reason all of our accesses started working, so now we're in the library working hard.”
I ask him how he feels about carpet: “It's very tedious, very time consuming work. But it's fun seeing it. Once you start putting them all down and it's starting to come into place, it's really fun to see.”
One of the most ambitious and impressive elements of the fair is that the team places small squares of carpet throughout KTH library and Nymble. Dark grey for the space every booth has, coloured carpet for the different themed rooms - this takes up more than half of the construction! Why? “Uhm, for a good fair experience. It also helps a lot with sound! This is way more customizable than rollout carpet: the way the layout is this year is not the way it was in 2019 when we had the last physical fair.”
I ask Filip if he thinks they are on schedule: “I would say we're ahead of schedule. The plan was to finish by midday tomorrow. Four more hours and then heading home,so I think we'll make good progress. I don't think we'll finish today, at least not here in the library, but we have a date tomorrow as well. So yeah, I would say we're ahead!”
“What’s planned for tomorrow and Monday?” - “Tomorrow is basically only carpeting. Then we will start with decorations. And then on Monday we are getting all the deliveries. Once the companies start coming and start pointing out mistakes, we'll have to fix them.”
It seems like everyone here in the library is really motivated. Filip says he is proud of his whole team: “Everyone is doing a really good job! For example Cecilia and the lunch team in the kitchen are doing a great job providing food and drinks for everyone. We had a really good lunch and then they came over with some cinnamon buns for fika!”
Next I talk to Jeffrey, he’s one of the Heads of Career Fair and part of the Project Group with 20 members. “We had some small obstacles which we managed to fix. I think the people here are working hard. We're doing a good job together! I am happy with the progress” - “How are your feelings about the carpet though?” - “It's like a love-hate relationship. They look really nice when we finish them like you can see over there. Yeah, but they're really annoying. Individually they're really hard and annoying to peel off the tape we use [to fix them to the floor]. Hurts my nails.”
I asked him how the rest of the plan is going: “There were some problems with the maps that we had. They weren't to scale, they were wrong.” - “Maps for the library that you got from KTH?” - “Exactly. But we fixed it. We found space somehow.”
Still very impressed I was on my way out of the library when I ran into Leonard, next year’s Project Manager for Armada: “It's a very complex planning procedure: first you have all the companies that have to fit and then you have the electricity for all the companies, which is different electricity for all and then different booth sizes for different companies. So it's a complex process. I think that's why it was a bit of chaos in the beginning. But we sorted it out!” - “And how do you feel about carpets?” - “Well, I love this weekend, but I’m a bit biased too! Talk to Nicolas here!”
Nicolas is a host, one of the over 160 students that help to create Armada this year. “The companies will have their arranged places, but it's also a big thing to make sure the fire exits are clear. We had to keep track of some geometry in such a way that there is a 1.2 meter gap [between companies], for instance to run to the emergency exit. I’m getting a bit tired, but if I am together with my teammates then I'm perfectly fine with carpeting!”
Back to Leo: “How does it feel to be here and experience the construction as the Project Manager for next year?” - “Well, I'm super excited. I think I'm the only person here who didn't have to be here. I'm weird in this way because I like this! I think it's fun to work together and see everything come together. I think that's fun! And of course, to spot the things that we can improve for next year.”
Jump to Monday. The Armada team has been working hard - and all of the carpets and decorations in both Nymble and the library are finished, it’s quite impressive. On the day before the fair however, I wake up to 30cm snow outside and a warning from SL and the police not to go outside. Armada expected a large number of companies to arrive with their equipment, ready to set up screens, LED walls, furniture, games and giveaways - what does the snow chaos mean for them?
In the Armada office in Nymble I meet with Mambo, he is Head of Logistics & Fair and has an overview of what’s going on: “It's a bit crazy.. it has snowed a lot which has led our transport solution to be late, that’s not really good. They have started arriving now so at least some companies can start building their booth.” - “Are you still on time for tomorrow?” - “I would say we are on time but I hope that many companies come today and not tomorrow. I think it will be hectic with all the snow and everything. But apart from the snow everything else looks exactly as we had planned.”
“In such a big project there are so many people involved! Information might not get to everyone at the time that it’s supposed to. For instance the radios aren’t working right now, so it’s harder to get information to the people in the library.”
I ask him how the rest of the team is doing. Have a lot of them stayed home because of the snow? “Well, today it’s mostly the companies that build their own stuff, so we don’t need as many other people here.” Is everyone still excited? “Yeah! I’m still excited, but in problem solving mode. When everything goes well tomorrow I’ll be so happy - and I hope the students enjoy the fair because we’ve spent so much time preparing it!”
Walking around Nymble I can see what Mambo was talking about. The first companies in Nya Matsalen are setting up their furniture, but overall the atmosphere is calm. I search for more members of the project team to see how they are doing and stumble upon Jessica and Cecilia in the loading dock behind Nymble.
“I’m the Head of Logistics for this year’s Armada. Making sure everything gets here: tools, carpet, etc.” - “And I’m Cecilia, Head of Service”. I ask them both what their stress level is: “7 out of 10”, says Jessica. “Yeah, 6 I think”, agrees Cecilia. “That doesn’t sound too bad!” - “No. It was very stressful on Friday - but after the construction weekend we can see that things are coming together.”
As the Head of Service, Cecilia is responsible for all the food for both the team and companies. “You’re always worried about having too many leftovers or not enough food - but it turned out well. We had burgers with keno salads. Mashed potatoes with meatballs, vegan of course, and peas. Some chili sin carne that turned out a bit weird. But people ate it, so it’s all okay!” - “And what are you doing tomorrow?” - “I will be here at 6 to prepare breakfast for the whole team! Food for 200 people, again. And then it’s just managing the company lounge and checking the lunches we provide.”
I ask Jessica what she thinks is the most challenging thing she does as Head of Logistics - and the most fun thing! “The most challenging thing.. I planned ahead for many things, but there’s still so much that doesn’t go as smooth as you think. It’s also my first time [at Armada], so I think I’ve missed a lot. But the most fun part of being here is when you’re with your team members - everything instantly feels better and easier! That’s the best part.”
With most things still on schedule despite the snow outside I leave Nymble for the day. It’s Monday evening, and tomorrow Nymble and the KTH Library will open their doors to thousands of students for Armada 2022.
I arrive an hour before opening and find Filip, the Project Manager. Suit, green tie, Armada pin on his chest and a radio cable professionally dangling from his ear. He seems proud of what him and his team have accomplished. “I’m feeling good! We had a few things that still needed to be finished, but I trust my team, they know what they’re supposed to do. A lot of companies are also still arriving to the check-in desk and finishing their booths.” - “How many companies actually arrived yesterday?” - “65 out of 145 came yesterday… so the majority is coming today. Which is going to be quite hectic, but we’ll see. I’m very excited - I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, so it’s fun to see it finally happening.”