Luxury People

The Communication Group + 10 Bloomsbury Way London

The Bloomsbury Group


London architecture practice Buckley Yeoman Grey are no strangers to breathing new life into old buildings. Derwent London’s Buckley Building in Clerkenwell, 1930s printing works turned offices, is a case in point. L+R commissioned the architects to transform the 1940s Ministry of Defence HQ into offices. Bloomsbury’s very own flat iron building, sprinkled with Buckley Yeoman Grey’s fairy dust, is now home to the UK’s longest established independent PR consultancy. Glamorous and sophisticated, the offices look good too. They overlook London’s most curious steeple: lions and unicorns coiling round the stepped pyramid atop St George’s Bloomsbury. Hawksmoor gone cuckoo.


The Communication Group was founded by Maureen Sutherland Smith, who is now the Chairman. A renowned professional in the world of PR, Maureen was made a Freeman of the City of London in 2011. She’s also well known for her charity work. The following year, she was appointed Vice President of Coram, the UK’s oldest children’s charity, and has since been made a Life Governor. In recent times, Maureen chaired the Grosvenor House Arts and Antiques Fair which raised over £400,000 and organised the City Rocks concert. Attracting the likes of Brian May, Lily Allen and Sophie Ellis-Bextor gathered £200,000 for The Lord Mayor’s Appeal.



Clients of The Communication Group range from places to live in (Ballymore) to places to stay in (Jumeirah) to places to work in (Howick Place) to places to save in (Coutts) to places to spend in (Masterpiece) to places to get well in (Nightingale Hospital) to places to get even better in (Necker Island) to places to bring an umbrella (Edinburgh) to places to forget an umbrella (Dubai) and umbrellas (Fulton). Wherever Ms Sutherland Smith’s black Morgan is parked outside, there’s a good party going on indoors. Tonight is no exception. It’s The Communication Group’s 30th birthday celebrations. Hurrah! The lights are on in 10 Bloomsbury Way and everyone’s home. It’s time to chat to Lady Lucy French of St James’s Theatre.


Assassin-black uniformed waiters come and go from The Bloomsbury Kitchen serving caviar, smoked salmon and cream cheese followed by watermelon and mint. Janisson + Fils champagne flows. A tower of coloured meringues lures guests. Maureen steps forward to speak, “Thank you so much for the flowers and cake! I find it difficult to believe its 30 years since The Communication Group began. It’s been a privilege over the years to have such exciting, outstanding and amazing clients! It’s been wonderful to build friendships and relationships. Other companies have been bought out but The Communication Group is proud to have retained its independence. So I would like to give you a big thank you for the part you have played in our past, present and I hope in our future!” The saxophonist plays happy birthday. Later, a female lead will sing Valerie while the band gets louder and the lights dimmer. “The singer was an intern for me,” says Sally Hawkins, Chairman of the Management Board and Creative Director of The Communication Group. “She performs at the Blue Marlin.”


Architects Architecture Design Developers

Lavender’s Blue + Howick Place Westminster London

Black and White and Red All Over

Westminster Architecture © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Howick Place possesses a transitional character wedged between the stripy red brick and Portland stone of Westminster Cathedral and the glass cathedrals to commerce straddling Victoria Street. Religion, consumerism and London’s 21st century temple for thespians, St James Theatre, make unlikely but compatible bedfellows in the £2 billion renaissance of Victoria. Developers Doughton Hanson and Terrace Hill’s offering is an office led mixed use scheme inches away from the headquarters of Giorgio Armani, Tom Ford and Jimmy Choo.

Howick Place Westminster © Stuart Blakley

In another unlikely but successful catholic ménage à trois, their nine storey building references Ashley + Newman, Lutyens and Mies. The red brick recalls Ashley + Newman’s neighbouring Schomberg mansion block. The grid colouring of pale stone banding and black metal window frames resurrects Lutyens’ monochromatic chequerboard Grosvenor Estate which heralded the arrival of modernism. As for Mies, he would have approved of the grid cruciform and expanses of glazing. Traditional railings keep the scheme grounded.

“Key for us was creating a building that would sit comfortably with the high quality older architecture that borders the site,” explains project architect Jonathan Carter of Rolfe Judd, “whilst also delivering a space that is cutting edge and responds to the transformation of the wider area.” Volume and void optimise lightness and airiness through transparency of container to contents. Part of the lower ground floor offices rises to double height allowing natural light penetration. The street level windows become a clerestory. Part of the first floor offices overlooks a double height reception carving out a glass cube. A living wall climbs up the light well. The grid extends above the parapet to frame the street corner roof terrace.

“The reception is a large space with plenty of visibility from outside,” elaborates design consultant Joanna White of Joanna White, “so it was important to consider the exterior and interior together and to respond sensitively to the streetscape, architecture and materials. We picked up on the texture of the adjacent listed buildings, the earthy colour of the red brick and the darkness of the exterior frames.” Joanna completes the religiously disciplined palette. A separate entrance leads to 23 luxury residential lets on two penthouse levels. Roof terraces abound. Far blow, the capital snakes out in a labyrinth of Lilliputian living.

Howick Place London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The architectural demands of this strategic site for an inspirational urban composition demonstrate the role of architecture as the guardian of the public realm, something too readily dissolved by the alternating demands of capitalist and bourgeois values. In a gesture of patronage beyond guardianship, artist Yinka Shonibare, famed for his Fourth Plinth Nelson, was commissioned to encapsulate the spirit of Howick Place.

Howick Place by Rolfe Judd © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley