Lives Remembered: Gerry Sanderson

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The Independent Online

Gerry Sanderson, who has died aged 55, was the classic English eccentric, whose talent was as deep as his love of life. His frequent balls and bashes, he declared, were the perfect antidote to the often clinical, calculating world of architecture in which he made his name. The party venues were his own country homes – Bucklebury Place in Berkshire and The Manor House at Petty France, Gloucestershire, which featured as a hotel in the film Four Weddings And A Funeral (Hugh Grant hid inside the wardrobe in Gerry's own room). From his impression of Ursula Andress's Honey Ryder in Dr No to a Heroes Ball get-up as John Lennon in Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club garb, there were few extremes to which he would not go in search of the craic.

Born between two sisters in Norwich on St Patrick's Day 1953, Gerry became a lifelong supporter of Norwich City FC. One of the proudest moments of his life, he'd claim, was following Delia Smith into the shareholders' box. He graduated from Manchester University's School of Architecture in 1978, his early career being affiliated to a number of architectural partnerships before he launched his own, Sanderson Associates, in 1990.

The fun started, he said, when he met his match: the equally eccentric singer, Lynda Sheridan, at her 30th birthday party in 1990. Having wooed her with poetry, drawings, illustrated love letters, days at the races and nights at the opera, he moved her into his Holland Park flat and then on to Brooke House, south London. Oliver was born the following year and their daughter Hermione in 1997.

His career highlights included the £110m extension to the Grade II Listed Prudential headquarters, Holborn; award-winning shopping centres in Birkenhead, Preston, Chorley and Ealing Broadway; and a £4m Trust House Forte hotel redevelopment in Hull. An Italophile, he bought a villa in Umbria, which inspired him to plan a major chateau rejuvenation project in the Loire valley. Various healthcare and commercial work included Maidenhead's Grade I Listed Huntercombe Manor special care unit, a 90-bed nursing home/brain injury unit in Blackheath and a major film-editing and post-production facility in Soho. In 1992 he designed Windsor House, the award-winning £6.7m headquarters for South West Water in Plymouth, which earned him a nomin-ation for Italy's Andrea Palladio International Award for young architects.

It was shortly after his return from a fund-raising trek to Machu Picchu in the Andes in 2004 that Gerry was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Having responded well to treatment, which he described with typical understatement as "just a little scratch", he and Lynda set about extending their property portfolio with investments in Somerset and Devon. The former, a deconsecrated church, was to be redesigned as self-catering hen party accommodation while the latter, an obsolete family hotel on the North Devonshire coast, would be developed as luxury seaside apartments. Late last year he began plotting with an old friend, Tony Sykes, to run this November's New York Marathon in celebration of his return to health and in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. But by the time the application forms arrived he had developed metastatic tumours in the liver and was forced to withdraw.

Still talking with Lynda, if only in the abstract, about taking Manhattan with Tony, Gerry died on 6 September in Frenchay Hospital's Macmillan palliative care unit, the charity for whom he had planned to run.

Lesley-Ann Jones

To give in Gerry's memory: www.justgiving.com/tonysykes

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