By Len Port
Claes Feder, who has died in the Algarve at the age of 81, will be remembered for his love of classic ships, the excellence of his work as an architect and the warmth of his personality as a bon viveur.
His lifelong association with Portugal and all things nautical began on the island of Madeira where he was born. His father was Danish, his mother Swedish. He was 17 before he first went to Scandinavia at the end of World War II.
After studying naval design and engineering at Gothenburg University, he worked for a while as a purser on the MS Stockholm plying between Gothenburg and New York. The job led to a fairytale romance.
A Swedish passenger, Berit Herrströmer, was sailing to the United States to marry a wealthy cotton farmer. On meeting Claes, she cancelled her wedding plans and ended up marrying him instead. “I always considered him first Claes,” she would tell friends with a twinkle in her eye.
A major success in his career as a naval architect came in 1966 with the launch at the famous John Brown Clydebank shipyard in Scotland of a new Swedish American Line vessel, the MS Kungsholm. As her chief designer, Claes had created a classic 28,800-ton vessel that would serve as both an ocean liner and a cruise ship. It would later be bought by P&O to replace the venerable Arcadia.
Within a few years, the direction of his career changed dramatically. He decided to design houses rather than ships and moved to Portugal with Berit and their two children, Viveka and Annika.
The 1974 revolution disrupted his work with Portuguese construction firms in the Algarve. The family moved back to Sweden for a couple of years but, when political and social stability returned, Claes was commissioned to create exclusive villas for the burgeoning Vale do Lobo golf resort.
Having established a high reputation as an individual consultant, he and the Scottish architect Clive Batchelor founded the architectural company Atelier do Sul. Joined a year later by Fred Phillips who added a further design dimension, it proved to be one of the Algarve’s most innovative and stable partnerships. It flourished as foreign demand at the top end of the market continued to grow through the 1980s and ‘90s.
Retirement only suited Claes because it allowed him time to concentrate once again on nautical themes. His last project was a mighty one. He produced detailed plans for a five-star hotel and conference centre within a full-scale replica of the Titanic.
The Feder family will welcome friends of various nationalities in a celebration of Claes’ life at 11am tomorrow (Saturday) at the Hotel Garbe, overlooking the sea at Armação de Pêra.