Ebullient and combative, the architect Owen Luder was a Dulwich resident from 1975, occupying 105 Dulwich Village, a large Georgian house, quite different in character to his own architectural style. Probably attracted by its large garden, where he enjoyed a daily early morning swim in the pool he built, he gave expression to his joie de vivre through his colourful bow ties and penchant for performance sports cars, owning amongst others an Aston Martin DBS.
Twice president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Owen Luder was responsible for what has become some of the most controversial architecture of the twentieth century. His champions argue that his distinctive and imaginative Brutalist buildings with their emphasis on the use of raw concrete and functional design were inspirational. However, the wider public have shunned his work in recent years although he continues to be highly regarded by a number of dedicated admirers. Owen Luder’s commissions included the Eros House and the adjacent shopping centre in Catford, the now demolished Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth, Derwent Tower (aka the Derwent Rocket) and the Trinity Square Shopping Centre and Car Park in Gateshead - which famously featured in that early 70s classic crime film 'Get Carter'.
Closer to home, he built two houses in Herne Hill Road, the sale of one allowed he and his family to occupy the other. He was involved with works to St Saviours Herne Hill and he oversaw the conversion of the Grade II-listed Victorian fire station in West Norwood into the South London Theatre.
The initial design work on his firm's larger projects was often carried out by his partners, but according to Ian McInnes chair of the trustees of the Twentieth Century Society, without Luder, none of those buildings would have been built; “He had the energy and business skills to make them happen, and many of them were works which continue to inspire new generations, who sadly can now only discover them through film and photography”.
Owen Luder was born in Islington in 1928, the family moving to the Old Kent Road in 1935. and he grew up in South London. He stayed in London throughout WW2 and for a time attended SLESS (South London Emergency Secondary School, formerly Peckham School for Girls established for children remaining in London before proceeding to study architecture as a career firstly at the Brixton School of Building then at the School of Architecture at Regent Street Polytechnic. He established his own practice in 1957. He was elected for two non-consecutive terms as president of the Royal Society of British Architects (1981-83 and 1995-97). He overcame opposition to change by the elitist wing of the Institute when he sought to place the profession on a more business like footing and was supported by the Institute’s rank and file. He is credited with bringing better managerial skills into both RIBA particularly, and the profession generally.