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Words of remembrance for Professor Pat O'Sullivan

With great sadness, we announce the death of Professor Pat O’Sullivan on 10 February 2021. Professor O’Sullivan was Dean of The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, and Head of the Department of Architecture, Building, Environmental Design and Planning for over ten years in the 1980s-1990s, and made many great contributions to the faculty during this time. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.

Words of remembrance from Prof Tadj Oreszczyn and Prof Alan Penn:

“Pat O’Sullivan trained as a mining engineer, but specialised in airflow. He came to UCL following positions at Newcastle and Cardiff with a reputation for being prepared to make tough decisions. He was brought in because he was a disrupter, The Bartlett was facing some challenges when he joined as the Pilkington Professor of Environmental Design and Engineering. Students were on strike, and the faculty was coming to terms with the massive changes the Higher Education system was undergoing.

The university knew it needed radical change, and Pat was appointed as Head of The Bartlett and Dean as soon as he arrived. Because of his new role, Pat was awarded a new blood lectureship to help support his initial research and teaching commitments, which Tadj was lucky to be awarded, via a process that in this day and age would be considered unconventional. One of the key questions during interview was if he had a good head for heights. Pat was part of the Legionnaires Disease Inquiry team, that would get called out whenever there was an out-break to decide what action was needed – and he had decided he was getting a bit old to climb up cooling towers to inspect them.

Alan was a self-employed research assistant at the time. When Pat arrived he made a point of stopping to talk in the corridor, discovered the precarious nature of his contract, and made a persuasive argument that there could be a career in academia. Pat really cared about people.

Pat managed by gut instinct not theory. He would often hold court at lunchtime in an Italian restaurant on Tottenham Court Road where his favourite table and dishes were duly reserved for him, or in the evening over a bottle of Paddies whiskey where he would recount stories about his much loved horse riding. He was prepared to take risks, but when he got things wrong, he would happily face the criticism and put things right. In fact, some thought that Pat felt his day had been a failure if somebody had not threatened to sue him. Pat was Marmite to many people.

He laid the foundations for The Bartlett’s transformation, appointing Peter Cook and Christine Hawley to transform The Bartlett School of Architecture, and establishing The Bartlett School of Graduate Studies. This new School took on the 'waifs and strays' that did not neatly fill the professional Architecture, Buildings and Planning routes – a legacy of Llwellwyn-Davies transformation of the school in the 1960s – facilitating The Bartlett's success in tackling the many real-world challenges which were cross-disciplinary and cross-profession. If gossip were an indicator of management style, Pat's time as HoD was one of peak Gossip, which often made its ways into the professional journals.

Pat worked tirelessly to support The Bartlett. He would always make time to see staff and students, and was active not only in transforming The Bartlett, but externally as a champion for the built environment. He would regularly advise government, not only on Legionnaires, but also the building regulations of which he was the Chair of BRAC. He would collaborate on research in areas like Sick Building Syndrome and supported the professions.”