Purley residents have paid touching tributes to a well-known and much-loved architect who was part of the local residents’ association for 40 years, after his death.
Tarsem Flora, who moved to Croydon in 1974 and led Purley and Woodcote Residents’ Association (PWRA) for 17 years between 1998 and 2015, passed away on September 8 at the age of 79.
Mr Flora’s time at PWRA saw several big changes in the ward, including the arrival of Tesco and the introduction of the Purley Cross gyratory.
Born in India and raised in Kenya, Mr Flora, of Russell Hill, became the first Asian person to open an architectural practice in Britain in 1968 when he founded Flora Associates.
The company, based in Tamworth Road, in Croydon, has worked all over the world and designed one of the heaviest doors in the country, weighing 56 tonnes, for the Ministry of Defence.
The last Flora Associates project carried out by Mr Flora was a small-scale one which saw the pensioner designing a two-storey garage and office space for Councillor Simon Brew, who represents Purley.
Cllr Brew, who knew Mr Flora for more than 35 years, said the building will serve as “a lasting memory” of the friendship he shared with the architect.
He said: “Tarsem came along and designed the structure so beautifully, and it was actually the last project he was able to do.
“Planning permission was granted just last week, which I feel now is very poignant.
“Having him come over to discuss the design was one of the most touching moments we shared and it has become symbolic in light of its timing.
“His talents as an architect and the way he has used these gifts to help the community in Purley is outstanding – he was able not only to complete grand-scale, amazing jobs such as concert halls, but small projects as well.”
Cllr Brew spoke fondly of how Mr Flora managed to improve Purley’s flooding problems by implementing the ward’s current community flood defence plan back in 2012.
He added: “Tarsem always had a twinkle in his eye and we just got on so well – but, then again, he got on well with everybody as he was a genuinely lovely man.
“I had a very soft spot for him and his loss is a very sad one for the community.”
These touching sentiments were echoed by Philip Reed, chairman of PWRA, who described Mr Flora as “a wonderful gentleman”.
Mr Reed said: “Mr Flora was one of the nicest men I have ever met.
“He had an absolutely glittering career as an architect and he was, quite simply, a wonderful gentleman.
“He was buried last Tuesday (September 19) on what would have been his 80th birthday and he is very sadly missed.”
Simon Cripps, head of Purley Business Improvement District (BID), also paid tribute to Mr Flora, describing him as a “fine man”.
He said: “We set up the BID just as Mr Flora was stepping down from his position as leader of the residents’ association (in 2015) but I remember him well from business meetings.
“He was a fine man who did a lot for the people of Purley and for business in the area – he will be sorely missed.”
Mr Flora is survived by his wife, two children and two grandchildren.