Owen Luder fights his corner in documentary

FROM celebrated architect to laughing stock, Owen Luder’s fortunes have gone into reverse in the last 50 years.

Owen Luder

FROM celebrated architect to laughing stock, Owen Luder’s fortunes have gone into reverse in the last 50 years.

The man behind Gateshead’s “Get Carter” car park and Dunston Rocket has had to stand by and watch as, one after another, his 1960s and 1970s creations have fallen from favour and been demolished.

Now he is making his voice – and his opinions on the demolition of his landmark buildings – heard in a film, Get Luder, which follows him on a visit to Tyneside.

Mr Luder, 82, was a spectator as work started to raze the Trinity Square car park, famed for its role in the 1971 Michael Caine film Get Carter, in July this year.

A film crew followed him as he took a final tour around the 1960s concrete structure, dubbed “brutalist” in its design, before visiting the Derwent Tower, known as the Rocket, which is also earmarked for demolition.

Although opinion was split, Gateshead Council and many residents of the towns were pleased to see the back of the buildings, which have been accused of holding up regeneration plans.

Mr Luder has also seen other buildings he designed being torn down, including the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth, Eros House in London and Southgate shopping centre in Bath.

But he remains defiant and convinced that history will prove his designs were desirable.

Get Luder, directed by Scottish filmmaker Jonathan Carr and produced by Plainview Films, reveals Mr Luder’s feelings as he faces seeing all of his most iconic creations razed in his own lifetime.

In it Mr Luder, a former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, says: “In the 60s my buildings were awarded, in the 70s they were applauded, in the 80s they were questioned, in the 90s they were ridiculed. Now in the 2000s the ones I like best are the ones that are being demolished.

“What hurts is when you see one of your buildings mutilated, where somebody has been let loose on them who doesn’t understand and doesn’t have a feel for the integrity of the building.

“I think it’s totally ridiculous to knock down a multi-storey car park for 600 cars when there’s a demand. The arguments for keeping the Rocket and renovating it are far greater than this one.

“Obviously I shall continue to say: ‘Why knock it down?’ It doesn’t make any sense. I’ll defend my corner any time.

“I think history will be very kind to the Get Carter and the Rocket. I think there will be a lot of people who will be saying increasingly in the coming decades why did they knock that down, it should have been kept.”

Tesco development arm Spenhill and Gateshead Council say the car park will be replaced by a modern shopping and office complex and flats.

Director Mr Carr said: “Setting out to make Get Luder, I wanted to investigate what is was like for a once-lauded architectural giant to face the demolition of his work in his own lifetime.

“On meeting Owen, what we found surprised and enthralled us. He was dignified, charismatic and entertaining – and showed he will never give up his battle to keep his legacy alive.”

The nine-minute film will be premiered on Friday at Sheffield Doc/Fest, an international celebration of the documentary.

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