Posted Sep 5 2023 | By Irene Craik

Patricia ‘Tish’ Pearson, Architect (1944-2023)

The practice is deeply saddened by the death of Patricia 'Tish' Pearson - last Friday, 1st September. She had been unwell for several years and slipped away peacefully, with her son Daniel at her side.

Known always as Tish to her wide circle of friends, Patricia was born in Johannesburg where her father was a doctor and principal medical officer, whose patients were drawn from the families of mineworkers. One can only imagine the deep-rooted tradition of care towards those in need of support which came from her family background, but it certainly influenced Tish’s life choices.

Little is known about her decision to become an architect but, from a private girls’ boarding school in LA, Tish won a scholarship to Beverly Hills High School and eventually returned to Johannesburg to gain a Bachelor’s in Architecture at Wittwatersrand University, in 1968 – the year of student radicalism. She was the only female architecture student within her year. At this time, young designers presented themselves at job interviews, not with immaculate drawing portfolios, but instead with political and social ideas about how architects could eradicate the worst of current social ills, particularly poor housing. Tish graduated with plenty to say - alongside her design skills - and set about looking for like-minds in the profession, further afield.

After moving to London and a short spell at the GLC Architects’ Department, Tish joined Levitt Bernstein, an emerging architectural practice which had been established in 1968 by David Levitt and David Bernstein to support the needs of newly established community-based housing associations in London. It was a match made in heaven, in all respects.

For the next 30 years Tish worked at Levitt Bernstein, combining all her vast accumulation of technical and detail design skills and handling everyone in her own inimitable, generous way. As an architect she had a unique approach with clients and contractors and was always a positive force for her projects and the people around her. She brought vivacity, colour and fun to every conversation and worked as part of the senior team, leading many demanding, long term regeneration projects in London, including the Naish Court estate in Islington, Grahame Park in Barnet and the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark. Increasingly, as the practice grew, she mixed large scale projects with smaller ones. One special project, close to Tish’s heart was the centre for the Sick Children’s Trust in Bloomsbury, set up as a charity to enable the families of sick children at Great Ormond Street Hospital to remain close to the young patients during the most traumatic stages of their treatment. A number of similar projects followed, with Tish at her best, focussing her efforts on work that mattered to real people.

After 2009 she continued with her own private, small scale architectural work, until very recently; all projects won through word-of-mouth recommendations from very happy clients and most of them delivered with her beloved builder, Tomasz.

She really was a very good architect, although didn’t always use conventional means to realise the beautiful results she achieved. Her detailing, as well as her conceptual visualisation, were superb (all on scraps of paper and other people’s drawings!).

Alongside her busy professional and family life, Tish also found time in 1987 to help set up and then run the Robert Grace Trust – a small charity supporting people with HIV, first in London and then in South Africa and Kenya. Always caring and compassionate, she continued this work without necessarily shouting about it - unless of course she needed you to empty your pockets at one of the many fundraising events that she organised!

As a person she had an enormously positive impact on people within Levitt Bernstein. After her ‘retirement’ she continued working alongside the practice in our studios, radiating energy and support to everyone around her, especially the younger staff and women. She read us all so well.

She had her idiosyncrasies, of course – how many people helped her find her lost keys, lost glasses, survived her truly terrifying driving and furnished her IT support needs?! But there’s one thing everyone at Levitt Bernstein knew soon after they started – once you’d had a big Tish hug, you had properly arrived.

- written by David Levitt and Irene Craik

We will be collecting memories, pictures and thoughts about Tish to make a book for her family. If any former Levitt Bernstein staff, clients or colleagues would like to contribute please do get in touch: