“Object Lesson: Grenfell” by Zain Al-Sharaf Wahbeh

Zain Al-Sharaf Wahbeh is a Part II Architecture student at the Royal College Art. She graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a first class honours degree award in 2019.

In the same year, she won the Best Undergraduate Dissertation Prize at ESALA and was subsequently nominated for the RIBA Dissertation Medal of 2019.

The following project is a mixed-tenured housing design that was devised from a technical study of the Grenfell Tower fire on June 14 2017. Following this catastrophic incident, an extensive range of technical and public welfare discussions have surfaced throughout the architectural practice.

The first phase of the public inquiry entailed a meticulous inspection of images and technical reports that were compiled before and after the fire. These harrowing accounts revealed duplicitous measures to retrofit Grenfell Tower in 2014 with combustible material. This self-serving decision had ultimately cost the lives of more than 70 residents.

By closely examining the morphological and material mishaps in Grenfell Tower’s cladding, this residential project devises an alternative surface morphology to delay the concurrent propagation of flame. A dynamic aggregation of mixed tenured housing units makes use of this endeavour.

Within a single cluster is a staggered hierarchy of one and two bedroom apartments and three bedroom duplexes. While the project addresses some of the most pressing concerns regarding fire safety, it simultaneously commits to providing a more diverse set of housing typologies to varied family sizes and incomes.

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