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Daughter of Grenfell fire survivor calls on architects to ‘fight’ for their role

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The daughter of a Grenfell fire survivor has urged architects to ‘fight to get back’ their role in the design and construction process 

Khadijah Mamudu, whose mother and young brother escaped from the blaze at the west London high-rise a year ago today, told an RIBA fire safety conference that the profession’s responsibility had been ‘taken away’.

‘Architects are involved in the beginning but then have to sign it over to someone else. If you built it - why aren’t you allowed to see it through to fruition?’ she said.

‘You know the buildings inside-out; you know how you designed it. I think its incredible and ridiculous and I think that this is something architects should be fighting to get back.’

When asked how communities could rebuild trust in communities following the fire, Mamudu, said: ‘The first thing that needs to be done is to remove the cladding. I’ve heard a lot of people talking about limited combustibility. Just remove it; then we can start talking about trust.’

Mamudu, who was taking part in a panel discussion on professional ethics, praised the RIBA for inviting a representative of the local community to take part, adding: ‘We are not experts, but we’re not stupid either; we do understand and the more we learn with you the better the relationships will be.’

On the question of trust, panellist Indy Johar, co-founder of 00 Architects and chair of the RIBA Ethics Commission, called for architects to ‘stand up and rebuild legitimacy’. 

‘Either we do it together or we will lose the civil and civic legitimacy of us as a profession,’ he said. ‘This is really important. I no longer believe we can take for granted that legitimacy.’ 

Johar suggested architects needed to be more ‘radically transparent’ and accountable and proposed that one way of doing this might be for practices to write up ‘public interest statements’ about the buildings they design and publish them on their websites. 

‘This is not just to do with the incredible tragedy we are facing [in Grenfell] but also the invisible tragedies that are going on every day in peoples lives, such as air pollution’, he said, adding: ‘We architects have to rebuild the case for the built environment universally being a public good.’

In addition to maintaining the ‘golden thread’ between design and construction, calls for a more proactive industry response to the Grenfell tragedy were repeated throughout the conference with former RIBA president, Jane Duncan, called it a ‘defining moment’ for the profession.

‘We are a very creative industry, we’re innovative, we’re full of optimists and we can do something here,’ she said. ‘This is a defining moment; this is the point at which we can speak up. We shouldn’t be just talking about buildings or regulations or construction materials. What we’re here for is people.

‘Architects are fabulous advocates; we need to be out there fighting on behalf of our communities. It’s not the guy or girl next door that’s going to do it – it’s us’. 

A 24-hour vigil to mark the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, which claimed the lives of 72 people, began at 6pm yesterday as part of a series of events that will include a one-minute silence at midday today (14 June).

Yesterday evening, a concert in memory of Gloria Trevisan and Marco Gottardi, young Italian architects who died in the fire, was held in Fulham to raise funds for an annual award for Italian graduates to study in the UK.  

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Readers' comments (3)

  • John Kellett

    Thank you Khadijah Mamudu, wise words that ought to be listened to. Making it illegal for building designers to be unqualified, or inappropriately qualified, would be a good start.

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  • For your RIBA CPD covering fire rated system information, guidlines and considerations contact Forster UK 01909 295 000.
    This is vital information we have been pushing for years and needs to be listened to!

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  • Nobody other than qualified Electricians and Gas engineers are allowed to do electrical work and Gas engineers gas boilers and installations. Architects have long argued for similar control without success. The reason electrics and gas are Health and Safety Risks. Grenfell has highlighted the H & S issues with the safe design of buildings. We have for the first time a positive political case for all buildings to be designed by qualified architects. They may need to have an additional specialist add on qualification but that should not be a problem. Owen Luder CBE PPRIBA

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