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Renowned architect Lucy O'Sullivan tapped by AFO to mentor Portland youth
Allowing a space where minds can flourish in the field of architecture is what Lucy O'Sullivan hopes to accomplish in mentoring the youth of Oregon.

Over the past four years O'Sullivan has used her passion and seasoned skill as an architect to give back to the youth of her community in both the UK and US. Her aim is not only to create projects for companies and clients but to inspire the minds of potential architects who will pave the way in the future. 

O'Sullivan has tapped by Architecture Foundation of Oregon's (AFO) Architecture in Schools program to come on board as a design professional who, along with a skilled team of other revered architects, will join forces with classroom teachers to create and implement a customized six-week course curriculum for elementary school students.

Driven to use her seasoned skill to inspire the budding minds of Oregon's young people, O'Sullivan says, "I feel strongly about the importance of offering guidance, advice and mentorship, particularly as a female in the profession. Mentorship is critical to provide professional and personal role models for younger architects and young people."

O'Sullivan is set to begin her role as a design professional with AFO's Architecture in Schools program in January. The program was taken over by the AFO in 2003, having been originally started many decades earlier, with the goal to develop awareness and understanding about designing around the natural environment. Their goal is to teach principles and practices of architecture that keep in mind our responsibility in cultivating our natural space and the nature around us. Design professionals along with classroom teachers work to provide training workshops that teach students drawing techniques, lessons for measuring, different architectural period styles and other activities.

Having lived in Portland, Oregon for a few years, the UK native has made her mark in the states as a leading architect at Works Progress Architecture (W.PA), where she is currently leading the development on the 151 Alder and 7 SE Stark commercial buildings.

Finding time to balance company work and mentoring is proof that O'Sullivan's overflowing passion for architecture cannot be contained to one project at a time. The desire to use her skill in a way that benefits humanity and the future of architecture reveals O'Sullivan as a true hero who cares about the development of her industry.

Works Progress Architecture partner and co-founder Carrie Strickland has seen first hand how O'Sullivan's leadership skills in mentoring, one of her greatest strengths, has played a major role in their firm. She says, "Lucy manages her team well and is a great mentor to those on her team. Lucy takes the time to explain not just the what's but the why's of tasks that are given to her younger team members. She puts a great deal of energy into her work. We see Lucy has a very strong leader and mentor within the studio."

During her time as an architect in London, O'Sullivan worked on multiple developments in the education sector and spearheaded workshops with the schoolchildren for those developments, and also played a key role as a mentor with the Royal Institute of British Architects where she participated in a series of workshops. As a guide in the field of educating aspiring architects, O'Sullivan finds teaching students about design to be a vital and rewarding experience.

Knowing that AFO's Architecture in Schools was one of the only programs of its nature that exists in Oregon, O'Sullivan felt that it was important to continue her mentorship state-side.

"It is important to expose kids from an early age to the tenets of good design and architecture, in a way that is appropriate to their age and aptitude" explains O'Sullivan. "The program introduces creativity and ways of thinking and looking at the built environment. Architecture affects everyone, we all live, work and play in buildings."

With an architect for a father, her passion for mentoring young architects runs deep in her veins as she experienced that power first hand. At an early age O'Sullivan learned to see the world through a designer's eyes thanks to the unique way her father taught her to look at buildings, as well as taught her applied skills such as sketching, photography and model making. As a student, she studied and worked in both the UK, Barcelona- Spain, and Amsterdam -NL, and since graduating has worked in New York, London and Portland. She brings a different way of looking at architecture from experiencing these different cultures and ways of working.

While O'Sullivan has been focused on designing large-scale commercial workspace structures with large budgets during her time at W.PA, during her many years as a leading architect in the UK she became known for her contributions to the development of many civic, institutional and educational structures. She's also continued to designing multi-family housing developments in the US, another area of her expertise that she earned extensive praise for during her time in the UK.

Kevin Behan, a contractor Lucy O'Sullivan worked closely with back in the UK, says "I worked as the client-contractor for several projects with Lucy, mostly refurbishment jobs or extension jobs. Victoria Park Studio in particular was a job where I was very impressed with the process and end result... This kind of job is important because it raises the value of the house. The 4 bedroom house has been listed at £1.1 million… It is hard to imagine reaching that value without Lucy's critical contributions."

One of the new projects O'Sullivan is working on that reminds her of home is a cabin in Nehalem, a small city on the coast of Oregon. Relating the land she purchased to that of southwest Ireland where her parents are from, O'Sullivan says, "We felt a connection to the coastline when we first visited, since the windswept beach with its border of sand-dunes, driftwood and long grasses is reminiscent of the beaches in south-west ireland where my parents are from. The coastal landscape is rugged with a backbone of mountains and fantastic views out to the horizon and up to the hills."

The cabin she's designing is a micro-unit that is being purposefully fabricated off-site so the exterior skin, fixtures and finishes receive the highest level of quality assurance-- a decision she made in order to ensure that the ever-changing weather patterns at the coast don't affect the integrity of the materials and the construction of the project.

She says, "It is chance to test out ideas of compact and efficient living, and also to use materials which are cost-effective in an inventive way."

With her tireless passion for architecture, a strong desire to give back to the community, and the wide spectrum of projects that she's developed across continents over the last decade, which include multi-award winning structures such as London's Brent Civic Centre and many more, there are few others in the industry who are as qualified as architect Lucy O'Sullivan to help train the next generation of architects around the world.

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