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Architects tasked with designing impactful memorial for Grenfell Tower victims

Architects tasked with designing impactful memorial for Grenfell Tower victims
A memorial wall next to the Grenfell Tower in west London. A permanent memorial is planned for the site where 72 people died in a fire in 2017. Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian

Architects are being invited to compete to design a “powerful” memorial to the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster, which will feature the names of those who died in the fire and be of “significant stature”.

A design brief was published on Wednesday to initiate the search for firms both from the UK and abroad. These firms are tasked with drafting concepts for a “bold” memorial set in a garden, described as “exceptional and heartfelt, a poignant reminder and powerful homage to those at the heart of the tragedy”.

In the autumn, a shortlist of five firms will be selected, each receiving £20,000 to produce their designs. A winner is expected to be picked next spring, with a planning application to be submitted in 2027 – a decade after the fire.

This initiative, led by the Grenfell Tower Memorial Commission, comes amid ongoing uncertainty regarding the future of the structurally compromised tower, currently supported by steel props. The decision on whether to demolish the tower rests with government ministers. There are also ongoing debates concerning which parts of the Grenfell community should have the most influence over the design of the memorial, adding another layer of complexity to an emotionally charged design process.

The memorial commission comprises 10 community representatives and is co-chaired by Labour peer Lord Boateng and solicitor Thelma Stober. The government, which now owns the site, will fund the memorial. However, Nabil Choucair, a community representative who lost six family members in the 14 June 2017 fire, expressed concerns about constructing a memorial not aligned with the wishes of immediate next of kin.

“We lost our loved ones and a sacred site could be destroyed and replaced with something that is not what we want to represent our families,” Choucair stated. “You shouldn’t have the voice of the next of kin alongside everyone else. It’s being lost among hundreds of other survivors and residents.”

To draw up the brief, the memorial commission consulted 2,259 members of the Grenfell community, including bereaved families, survivors, residents of the wider Lancaster West Estate, and the immediate community living near the tower. Out of 43 bereaved families, members from 31 families were consulted. According to their views, the commission calls for “a bold memorial – to create more than a simple place of commemoration” with a design that is “both exceptional and heartfelt, a poignant reminder and powerful homage to those at the heart of the tragedy”.

The commission emphasized that the views of the bereaved families must weigh more heavily than those of neighboring residents and survivors.

The brief requires a “specialist, considerate and community-focused memorial design team” to deliver both a garden and a monument on the existing tower site. This memorial would “mark the tragic events of 14 June 2017” and express the enduring love for those lost on that day.

The memorial should “prominently display the names of the 72 victims, with options for the bereaved families on how and whether to include them”.

Key elements like water and light are to be incorporated, and the art should reflect emotions such as “love, hope, and sadness”.

Designers are reminded that the color green is significant to the Grenfell community and that materials from the tower might be included. There also should be structures for shelter, reflection, and possibly education.

This design contest is being organized with the help of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Stober and Boateng stated, “Our primary commitment as the commission is to establish a dignified and peaceful space for the Grenfell community to commemorate. Our fundamental pledge has been to prioritize the voices and wishes of the entire Grenfell community in the decision-making process, both now and in the future.”

They further emphasized, “The bereaved, survivors, and the broader Grenfell community will play integral roles at every stage. This will ensure that the final design embodies a truly meaningful tribute to the 72 lives lost and provides a lasting and appropriate place for loved ones to pay their respects, mourn, and feel connected to their memory.”

Source: the Guardian