Architects asked to design ‘powerful’ memorial to Grenfell Tower victims

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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 starting a search for firms from the UK or abroad to draft concepts for a “bold” memorial set in a garden, which should be “exceptional and heartfelt, a poignant reminder and powerful homage to those at the heart of the tragedy”.

The shortlist of five will be selected in the autumn and given £20,000 each to produce designs before a winner is picked next spring and a planning application submitted in 2027 – a decade after the fire.

The move, by the Grenfell Tower Memorial Commission, comes despite continued uncertainty about the future of the structurally compromised tower, which is being held up with steel props. Whether it is completely demolished is a decision for government ministers. There are also tensions over which parts of the Grenfell community should have the greatest say over the design of the memorial. Both are factors likely to further complicate what could be an emotionally charged design process.

The memorial commission consists of 10 community representatives and is co-chaired by the Labour peer Lord Boateng and Thelma Stober, a solicitor. The memorial will be funded by the government, which now owns the site. But one of the community representatives, Nabil Choucair, who lost six members of his family in the 14 June 2017 fire, told the Guardian he feared the construction of a memorial that the immediate next of kin do not want.

“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,” he said. “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 defined as bereaved families, survivors, residents of the wider Lancaster West Estate and the immediate community who live near the tower. Those consulted included members of 31 out of the 43 bereaved families. Based on their views the commission is calling 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”.

It said the views of the bereaved families must have more weight than neighbouring residents and survivors.

The brief calls for a “specialist, considerate and community-focused memorial design team” to deliver a garden and a monument on the site of the existing tower, which would “mark the tragic events of 14 June 2017 and express the love we have for those we have lost and will remember for ever”.

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

Water and light are “key elements to incorporate”, elements of art should reflect “love, hope, and sadness”.

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Would-be designers are reminded that the colour green is significant for the Grenfell community and that materials from the tower might be included. There should also be a building or buildings for shelter, reflection and possibly education.

The contest is being run with the help of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Stober and Boateng said: “Our primary commitment as the commission is to establish a dignified and peaceful space for the Grenfell community to commemorate. And our fundamental pledge, from the outset, has been to prioritise the voices and wishes of the entire Grenfell community in the decision-making process, both now and in the future.

“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.”

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