Design should incorporate water, light and a space to shelter from the weather, according to brief

Grenfell memorial brief

A light display around the ruins of the tower. The brief calls for the memorial to contain the use of water, lighting and the colour green.

An international competition searching for an architect to design a memorial to the 72 victims of the Grenfell Tower fire has been launched.

A 32-page brief for the project has been published, outlining how the memorial on the site of the tower’s ruins in north west London should be “bold” and of “significant stature”.

The competition, launched by RIBA and the Grenfell Tower Memorial Commission, will see five teams shortlisted this autumn and a winner announced in spring next year.

A first phase launching today will ask teams to explain their motivation for entering the competition, their overall experience and their ability to work with the Grenfell community of bereaved families, survivors and residents of the tower.

During the second phase, the shortlisted teams will explain how the Grenfell community will be involved and submit initial design visuals, with the winning team then further developing the design and submitting a detailed planning application in 2027.

More details of what form the memorial could take were provided in the brief, which was informed by consultation with 2,259 members of the community including 31 out of the 43 bereaved families.

It calls for a “respectful, bold, lasting and sustainable memorial that honours those who lost their lives”, with a consensus emerging during consultations that its central feature should be a garden.

The document says the site should include a building or structure providing a place to shelter from the weather, a multi-faith prayer and reflection space and possibly a community or education space.

Some of those consulted suggested a museum on the site, although others expressed concern that this could turn the memorial into a tourist destination.

The government has set aside a site of just under 3,000sq m for the memorial, which includes the ground on which the tower block stands in North Kensington and adjacent land on either side.

The design should also include water, lighting, the colour green, and the names of the 2017 fire’s victims prominently displayed. Artwork which “reflects the local community’s creativity and evoke emotions of love, hope, and sadness” could also form part of the design.

RIBA past president and competitions advisor Jane Duncan said the design process for the memorial would be a “huge challenge”.

“The Grenfell Tower tragedy struck a blow so deeply sad, so shocking and so intense into hearts all around the globe, that to find the right design team, able to draw upon their deepest streams of empathy and delicacy, is a tricky task,” she said.

“This incredible and unique design team selection process sits naturally on an international stage, just as the tragedy resonated far across the globe.”

Duncan said entrants would need to consider whether they have the right skills and experience to deal with “many and diverse stakeholders, in sensitivity of approach and compassion, as well as the innovation and creativity to interpret and deliver a wonderful design to meet a very personal and touching brief.”

But she said the selection process would be a “wonderful opportunity to present your most well-rounded team, and express your capabilities, your openness, your imagination, and actually, also, your humanity.”

Last year the Commission published its second report calling for the government to ensure the Grenfell community was always central to decisions around the memorial and for the design to reflect the diverse faiths and cultural backgrounds of victims, bereaved and survivors.

Other recommendations included the creation of a permanent public exhibition and a separate physical and digital archive beyond the Grenfell Tower site.