Grenfell as a memorial tower

British firm JAA proposes that the fire-ravaged Grenfell Tower should be transformed into a permanent memory in honour of those who lost their lives.
British firm JAA proposes that the fire-ravaged Grenfell Tower should be transformed into a permanent memory in honour of those who lost their lives.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

British architecture firm JAA suggests preserving the 24-storey tower as a black concrete-covered memorial

LONDON • The painful, burning memories from Grenfell Tower should not be extinguished.

This is the opinion of JAA, a London firm of architects. It has proposed that the fire-ravaged building in London should be transformed into a permanent memory in honour of the 72 people who lost their lives in the inferno.

JAA wants to preserve the 24-storey tower with 224 black concrete panels tagged to the exterior, turning it into a memorial with an opaque facade.

A garden and terrace would be added to the roof while a light installation would be placed in apartment No. 16, where the fire began in June last year.

According to reports in various online design channels such as Dezeen and ArchDaily, JAA's concept calls for all other floors in the building to remain unused, with the exception of the lowest four.

These would be refurbished for community uses, including space for sport facilities and a gallery dedicated to the victims and their families.

If we build over these individual spaces borne out of tragedy, we will forget over time. And the city needs its scars; the city needs to remember.

MR ALESSIO CUOZZO, JAA's director, making a case to preserve the 24-storey Grenfell Tower, where 72 people died in a blaze last year

Mr Alessio Cuozzo, JAA's director, was quoted as saying by Fast Company magazine: "We believe the tower will likely be demolished due to political pressure and a desire to forget, but we believe this is a mistake.

"We believe the building is important in helping us remember what happened and to improve how the industry procures construction projects."

He noted that JAA's proposal "does not claim to be the answer to the difficult conditions found in the aftermath of Grenfell, but instead offers an alternative way of thinking about the site (and others similar) and its new-found sanctity through disaster".

"If we build over these individual spaces borne out of tragedy, we will forget over time.

"And the city needs its scars; the city needs to remember."

The building is now under the care of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The specialist journal Building Design reported recently that a memorial for the victims is one of the anticipated outcomes of an agreement between the ministry, Kensington & Chelsea council and survivors' and residents' groups that was signed earlier this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2018, with the headline 'Grenfell as a memorial tower'. Print Edition | Subscribe