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East of Bloomsbury Part 2: Tavistock Place

October 17, 2011 1 comment

This is the second part of a walking tour following a Pevsner Perambulation in part of Bloomsbury, London; the first part is here. See the introduction for fuller details; page references are to the Pevsner Buildings of England series volume London 4: North.

Tavistock Place N side

Tavistock Place North side looking West

We start in Herbrand Street, where we find the striking white art deco building now used as offices by the marketing firm McCann Erickson. I like the curve of the ramp between floors (betraying its original use as a garage for Daimler) and there are some other nice details surrounding windows and doorways.

McCann Erickson office, former garage

Herbrand St, McCann Erickson office


We retrace our steps and cross back over Coram St to the northern continuation of Herbrand St where there are two contrasting sets of public housing dating from a century ago, one on either side.

Herbrand St former LCC flats

Herbrand St former LCC flats

On the left (west) side is a former London County Council (LCC) development of three blocks of flats. They are rather plain red brick blocks of five storeys without any embellishment. It looks as if they may have been built with balconies that were later filled in.


Opposite is the more substantial Peabody estate, built around a courtyard.

Peabody Estate, Herbrand St

Peabody Estate, Herbrand St

Its striped brick appearance is archetypal of Peabody housing of this period. It didn’t take much lunchtime wandering around in central London before I found I could correctly identify Peabody flats from a distance. It is interesting to note, a hundred years later, that (as here) the Peabody flats often look both more solid and better maintained than their former LCC contemporaries.


We continue to the end of the road, turn right into Tavistock Place and turn right again into Kenton St. Around here, there are quite a few red brick Edwardian mansion blocks, the one Pevsner has picked out (occupying most of the right hand side) fits the description, having five storeys, but is quite plain and unexceptional even compared to some of the other blocks in neighbouring streets.

Aberdeen House, Kenton St

Aberdeen House

Aberdeen House is an example – it has clearly been truncated (possibly by wartime bombing) to make room for the Brunswick Centre.

I think the converted workshop next door to it (not mentioned, possibly refurbished since 1998) is of more interest, retaining its original sign and hoist, and is typical of the type of the small workshops that once were common in this area.

Kenton Street

Kenton Street old workshop


We retrace our steps and return to Tavistock Place and turn left to the far (Woburn Place) end. Tavistock Place is quite busy, used especially by taxis cutting through between Tottenham Court Road and Gray’s Inn Road.

Mary Ward House, Tavistock Place

Mary Ward House, Tavistock Place


Mary Ward House is the rather odd-looking hall on the right hand side at the far end. It is not mentioned in the perambulation (but see p.267-8) as is 9 Tavistock Place next to it, partly hidden behind a high brick wall.


2-14 Tavistock Place

2-14 Tavistock Place


Opposite are 2-14 Tavistock Place, modern facsimiles in the style of the original houses in the vicinity, including arched lights above the doors and sash windows. The sharp and new brickwork (in yellow brick rather than red) gives it away as being more than just an expensive restoration.


18-46 Tavistock Place

18-46 Tavistock Place


Continuing eastwards, immediately beyond Herbrand St, 18-48 Tavistock Place are original and provide a nice contrast, being very similar apart from the stuccoed ground floors.

We continue along Tavistock Place as far as Marchmont St and turn left into Cartwright Gardens where the next section of the tour continues.

Link updated 01/12/2011.

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Conducting and Project Management

October 5, 2011 2 comments

Some more thoughts on similarities between conductors (recently, for me, this means choral) and IT Project Managers.

Strategy. The conductor shapes the whole piece as a performance by setting style and expression, and has a clear idea how he wants it to sound. (It is striking how performances of the same piece can be very different). In the same way, the PM sets out the strategy for the project and holds in mind a vision for how it is to be done.

Rehearsals / training. In many ways, the whole choral rehearsal process is a parallel to the repeated iterations of build-test-refine that any system undergoes before it is finally released. Rehearsing a choir is not just about teaching the notes, but also about how to sing together as a unit. As well as coaching individuals, a project manager ensures that the team knows how to work together – what the internal team processes are, who is expert in what, and so on.

Detail. While holding the whole piece together and the choir in time by keeping the beat steady, the conductor also brings in different parts at the right times, and indicates changes in tempo or expression. To do this he must have an intimate knowledge of how each individual part fits with the others to make up the whole piece. A PM uses his detailed understanding of the business background and of how all the various planned tasks fit together to decide which are the critical tasks to bring to the fore at different points during the project.

Constantly changing priority. I’m struck how my current choirmaster will sometimes sing along with a part when it falters for a little while until it is secure again. Perhaps at that point he may not pay attention to some of the other parts at all. I once sang in a concert where the conductor never brought my part in at all, because he knew he could safely ignore us. This is very much the way a PM will focus on a hot issue until it is resolved maybe to the exclusion of other things for a short while. And of course the choirmaster can only sing one part at once, just as at any point in time at work we can do only one thing at a time.

Contribution of team members themselves. In an ensemble, listening to each other is critical, to keep together – in time, in tune, and expression. In a project this means discussing issues, being aware of what colleagues are doing and chipping in sometimes when needed. The PM should encourage an environment that enables this to happen.

Finally, both have ultimate authority – there may be some discussion at first but ultimately what you say, goes, and there is nobody else to stop you. Which means you need to get it right!

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