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London's' Lost Projects

Lost - as in taken away.
Lost - as in hidden.
Lost - as Heritage.
Lost - Never Happened.
Lost - as Grand Plans
Lost - to Technology.
Lost - and Found Again.

One of the key skills for project managers is to be able to identify what is missing, forgotten or lost on their projects. This is to prevent budget surprises, time delays and scope creep - as per the iron triangle by Dr Martin Barnes - with other optional points as appropriate - for stakeholders, funding, health and safety etc.

What has been omitted from the agenda or the notes from the meeting? What should be added to the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) or the Organisational Breakdown Structure (OBS)? What should be included in the report contents and conclusions? What is not happening - as well as what is happening? What is missing from the Statement of Requirements (SoR) at the beginning or at Practical Completion (PC) at the end?

So for inspirations and stimulations for such skills let's look around London and see what might be missing or lost.


Lost - as in taken away.

Much of the fabric of Roman London still existed up to 1700 and then was "taken away" in improvements; although much of it was not taken too far away being incorporated in buildings nearby and on top of Roman foundations.

Much of the poor quality 19th Century housing has been demolished and taken away - quite rightly. Although what replaced them - as tower blocks and new towns have had their own issues.

Bomb damage and fires from the Second World War decimated some whole areas of London and impacted many others.

The spectacular Crystal Palace from the Great Exhibition of 1850s, relocated to South London and which was destroyed by fire in 1936 was a great loss.

Church bells were a prevalent sound for centuries in a noisy city including for time keeping and curfews but have largely disappeared.

For many years horses were the key transport device - for passengers and commerce - although walking was more common. Reminders are available with occasional water troughs, the horse hospital, mews for coach houses and stables, the Blues and Royals, occasional mounted police, horse drawn brewers drays for beer, horse drawn funeral corteges, the ride in Hyde Park, royal carriages for state occasions, pub names, etc.

It is difficult to believe that London was the largest port in the world just over one hundred years ago. There is very little active evidence in operation. The port functions for commerce have moved to Tilbury and elsewhere; and for passengers to airports.

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Lost - as in hidden.

The many "lost rivers" of London are still there and flowing into the River Thames - over twenty. They have just been covered over with streets and buildings; or are features in parks such as the Westbourne River flowing through the Serpentine in Hyde Park. To get a feeling of the river courses one can stand on Holborn Viaduct to feel the River Fleet valley north and south.

Many of the natural geographical features of London have been lost. The low lying marshy areas which were liable to river flooding have been drained, reclaimed and occupied at Clapham, Pimlico, Battersea, Southwark, Lambeth and Lea Valley. The excavated materials from the docks have been used to build up and level off other areas. The River Thames has been narrowed by embankments.

The current street levels in the City centre are well above those of Roman times as layers of development have been added one on top of another across the centuries. This may be seen at the Guildhall.

Information and news may have been hidden - such as the Silvertown TNT explosion in January 1917 or the impact of the Blitz on London in 1940s.

Also London has world leading archaeological expertise - as may be seen with the recent Crossrail excavations and at Museum of London and many local museums. This can be dangerous work with unexploded ordnance and plague pits.

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Lost - as Heritage.

Some valuable buildings and heritage has been removed over the years such as the 19th century Doric style Euston Arch (1837-1961), the Coal Exchange, elements of the Festival of Britain from the 1950s, the Commonwealth Institute, the Firestone Building in art deco, the Lyons tea shops and corner houses.

However many remain to provide a rich tapestry of physical heritage greatly aided by the approach to Listings of buildings. Changes of use, refurbishment and conservation techniques are all assisting in these matters as indications of the "circular economy".

By way of a particular example the chains from the Hungerford Bridge by I.K.Brunel were dismantled in 1860 to be reused on the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol.

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Lost - as in Never Happened.

There have been many great proposals for London - and many others which were not-so-good. Many did not get out of the conceptual stage while others advanced a long way - and then were abandoned.

Recent examples might include - a new airport on "Boris Island" in the Thames Estuary; an NHS patient database; the Garden Bridge; a traffic free Oxford Street.

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Lost - as Grand Plans.

There have been grand master plans for London - following the Great Fire of London in 1666 through to post war rebuilding. Recently there have been master plans from eminent Architects such as Terry Farrell, Norman Foster and Richard Rogers.

As with all master plans even the ones which are adopted are not always fully implemented; such as the whole of the post-war Abercrombie Plan; or the North Circular and South Circular Roads; or the more recent, yet ongoing, Elizabeth Olympic Park proposals. It will be interesting to see if the twelve cycle super highways will be completed or fewer or more.

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Lost - to Technology.

The really extensive tram and trolleybus systems with their infrastructure installations throughout London have been removed and replaced by bus services.

A few iconic red telephone boxes are retained as tourist attractions or as plant holders since being made redundant by mobile phones and new designs.

Ticket offices at Underground stations have been closed with the use of ticket vending machinery. Loss of privacy arises from CCTV cameras everywhere - and reduces terrorism, crime and safety concerns.

Central London used to be a very noisy place with sounds 24/7 from traffic, work, living and leisure. This has all changed to a much quieter ambiance. People travelling on buses, tubes and trains are universally silent - unless they are tourists. Newspaper vendors do not shout the latest news on street corners to promote their journals. Conversation has been lost to handheld mobile devices. Electric cars are becoming more prevalent. Everyone is aware of or sensitive to sound and air pollution. Much of this is being addressed through projects.

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Lost - and found again.

Refurbishment is a constant theme in London as a city on the move - sometimes to their original purposes. Take Covent Garden as an example. From open fields an elegant open square with prestigious houses was constructed in 1630's. With the arrival and life of the fruit and vegetable market the area changed in respectability and went downhill. Then since the market moved to Nine Elms the area has risen again with continental style pavement cafes, market stalls, buskers and street entertainers; with adjacent opera house, theatres, museums and shopping - found again.

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