The Cladding Crisis

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesPublic Engagement – Public lecture/debate/seminar


The Cladding Crisis: going beyond the layers of the façade
A symposium organised by Giulia Rosa with Liam Ross

Related Events
The Symposium aims to bring together different voices to discuss one of the most tragic failures of the built environment: the Grenfell Tower fire.

The Symposium does not claim to instruct or find solutions but values the occasion to generate a set of conversations throughout and beyond the AA. We understand the Grenfell Tower incident and tragedy as the starting point in a conversation that seeks to question a much larger national crisis.

If in architecture schools we are instructed through exemplary projects that have traced our past and present times, should we not also discuss and learn from the failures that have scarred the very histories we place under our architectural lens? During the Symposium, we will metaphorically cross the strata of Grenfell’s building to learn from what happened in and behind its section.

Starting from the materiality of the combustible elements of the cladding, we will examine what took place behind Grenfell’s facade to then scale out again into the city context. The twelve centimetres of plastic-based insulation protected by composite panels in the Tower brings us beyond the problematics of combustibility and toxicity and instead reveals systematic injustices and ignored cycles of failure. In cases like Grenfell, the material disintegration of the facade becomes the metaphor for the immaterial disintegration of the notion of care in housing.

We hope to bring together resident groups, technical experts, journalists, architects, writers and members of local authorities to come together and discuss what can be learnt from Grenfell and how we can prevent the layering of time to obfuscate our view on the tragedy. The day will be structured in three parts. The first part of the day will revolve around the physical and material aspects of the fire, the second will aim to give voice to community members and those working first-hand at Grenfell and the final part of the day will return to the scale of the city and approaches the fire from a wider perspective. With round-table discussions concluding every session, we encourage audience participation to share, question and discuss diverse experiences and perspectives.

Please get in touch to let us know of any access requirements that you have. If you are unable to attend physically but would like to join the event remotely please email



Grenfell’s story sits between a social and relational problematic of governing public housing and a tragic performance of deceitful layers that escape their performative original nature. In this chapter we delve into the material and architectural composition of the facade in order to display layer after layer meanings, materials and motions.



The fragmented section of the facade speaks about a disintegration of actors and liabilities. Apparently seamless, the panellised skin hides a complex system of loose interconnections between components and people. In the second chapter we metaphorically cross the strata of the building to learn from what happened behind its section, giving space to the ignored cycles of failure and recognising the neglected user voice.



After the Fire in 2017, the scale of use of combustible cladding on buildings around the UK was stated, clearly revealing a national crisis. In the last chapter we scaled out into the city to delve into how deregulation, financialisation of housing and deep urban inequalities played a part in the narrative. Here we reflect upon what has yet to be learnt from Grenfell, how practice and professions are changing, and how care can be implemented in the management and delivery of social housing.



GIULIA ROSA is currently completing her final year at the Architectural Association, with a previous bachelor’s degree at the Politecnico of Milan. She co-founded, with a group of seven architects, the Milan-based practice zattere and is currently working on a thesis around the incommunicability between care and performance in social housing, starting from the Grenfell Tower fire.

LIAM ROSS is an architect and senior lecturer in Architectural Design at the University of Edinburgh. Liam’s research focusses on building standardisation as a mode of design; it seeks to foreground the ‘govern-mentalities’ embedded within familiar norms, and to trace the way those mentalities are translated and inscribed into built form. His work has been published in Arch +, arq, Architectural Theory Review, Candide, Gta Papers and Volume, features in the edited collections Industries of Architecture and Neoliberalism on the Ground, and has been exhibited at the Venice Architecture Biennale and Timisoara Biennial. His first monograph Pyrotechnic Cities: Architecture, fire-safety and standardisation (Routledge, 2022) studies the way architects work with and around the requirements of fire-safety standards. Since the Grenfell fire, Liam has worked to improve architects’ and architecture students’ understanding of fire and fire-safety design from a technical, historical and theoretical perspective, through his teaching at Edinburgh university, through CPD’s, and through consultancy for London School of Architecture and University College London.

PETER APPS is news editor of Inside Housing and has worked to uncover the dangers of combustible cladding, including in an article written thirty-four days before the Grenfell fire. It was entitled 'A Stark Warning'. Since then, he has picked up multiple national awards for his reporting, including being named Journalist of the Year and News Provider of the Year at the British Journalism Awards. In 2018, he was asked to give an address to the Orwell Prize ceremony about his work, and in 2019 he was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for journalism. He is author of Show Me the Bodies: How We Let Grenfell Happen, published in 2022

JOSE TORERO is a Fire Safety Engineer, Professor of Civil Engineering and Head of the Department of Civil Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at University College London (UCL). He is the author of more than 250 scientific papers in fire safety engineering and an active participant in the development of codes and standards globally. He is an instructed expert to the Grenfell Public Inquiry and has participated in the investigations of most of the major fires of the last twenty years, including the collapse of the World Trade Centre 1,2 & 7 buildings, the Windsor Tower fire, the Address Building fire, the Buncefield and Texas City explosions as well as the Glasgow School of Art and Notre Dame historic building fires.

CONSTANCE SMITH is a Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester. Her work examines the material and social afterlives of buildings, in particular high-rise housing. Beginning from histories of community and solidarity, she is interested in the relationship between urban landscapes, material remains and new urban politics as potential ways of rethinking urban futures.

SHAREEFA ENERGY is a poet, writer, activist, creative campaigner, workshop facilitator and arts and wellbeing practitioner. She was a North Kensington resident during the time of the Grenfell fire. She is the author of debut poetry collection Galaxy Walk and was awarded the UK Entertainment Best Poet 2017 Award. Her poetry has featured on BBC The One Show, Channel 4 and ITV. She has facilitated creative writing poetry workshops internationally, from Palestine to Sierra Leone, and facilitates workshops in immigration detention centres and with victims of domestic violence. She was the former London Youth and Community Coordinator on stop and search and is the Youth and Community Coordinator for the United Families & Friends Campaign, families of people affected by deaths at the hands of British police and in custody. She works with national anti-racist organisaion The Monitoring Group.

EDWARD DAFFARN is co-author of the Grenfell Action Group blog, having lived in Grenfell Tower for 20 years. He is a member of Grenfell United, representing the survivors and bereaved of the Grenfell Tower fire. He has been campaigning on housing issues since 2009.

HELENA RIVERA is a visiting lecturer in Landscape Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Greenwich and a visiting External Examiner at the University of Plymouth. She was awarded her PhD in Regional Planning in 2015 at the Bartlett School of Planning, UCL, where her research focused on applying transferable lessons from British New Towns into contemporary housing policy. She was a guest at the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on New Towns, 2018-2019. Rivera is founder and director of A Small Studio Ltd. A Small Studio was shortlisted for the curatorial commission to design the British Pavilion for the 2023 Venice Biennale by the British Council for its proposal on ‘Grenfell Residents and Stories of the Home’ and is subsequently collaborating with the London School of Architecture (LSA) on its new Part 4 course on Health and Life Safety.

EMMA DENT COAD has been a councillor in Kensington and Chelsea since 2006, and has spent her life fighting for those left behind in the Royal Borough. That fight became all the more urgent when, just a few days after she was elected MP for the area, the Grenfell Tower disaster occurred, illustrating to the country and the world just how neglected the most vulnerable members of our society had become. She is author of One Kensington: Tales from the Frontline of the Most Unequal Borough in Britain which lays bare the degree of mismanagement and neglect that has made Kensington and Chelsea a symbol of an ever more divided country.

NATHANIEL MCBRIDE is a playwright who has written the documentary play Dictating to the Estate. The play explores the events leading up to the Grenfell Tower fire. Using council minutes, emails, and blog posts, McBride developed the piece to tell the story of the tower and residents' attempts to hold the Council to account.

ANNA MINTON is a writer, journalist and Reader in Architecture at the University of East London. She is the author of Big Capital: Who is London for? (Penguin 2017) and Ground Control: Fear and Happiness in the 21st Century City (Penguin 2009/12). Big Capital investigates the underlying causes of the housing crisis in London and other cities and asks who is the city for, as housing becomes above all a financial asset rather than a place to live. Ground Control focuses on the privatization of public space, high security and fear and trust in cities. She was the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Fellow in the Built Environment and is Honorary Professor at the Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction. She is a regular contributor to the Guardian and the Financial Times.

DR STUART HODKINSON is a Lecturer in Critical Urban Geography. His main research focus is on the 'new urban enclosures' with a specific interest in the politics, policies and day-to-day realities of housing privatisation, urban regeneration and state-led gentrification in the UK. His most recent research was an ESRC-funded project exploring residents' experiences of public housing / estate regeneration in England under the controversial Private Finance Initiative (PFI). He is also leading an EPSRC-funded pilot project on Digital Welfare exploring the implications of austerity-led welfare reform policies for different communities in Leeds.

CAITLIN COLQUHOUN is a housing policy officer at the Greater London Authority. Amongst other policy areas, she leads on implementation of the Mayor’s building safety standards. Prior to working at the GLA, Caitlin worked with community groups in Southwark including the 35% Campaign and also worked at the Southwark Law Centre. Most recently, she has received Arts Council Funding for a project connecting young photographers in Southwark with housing activism; the project will culminate in a multi-media exhibition later this year.

ELEANOR DODMAN founded Eleanor Dodman Architects in 2018, a practice whose approach is pragmatic and straightforward yet materially rich and joyful. Before this she worked at numerous practices across a range of scales and sectors, with a focus on cultural and public projects. Her work has been exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and the Architecture Foundation. She runs a design studio at the AA alongside Selim Halulu.
Period24 Feb 2023
Event typeSeminar
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • Grenfell
  • fire safety
  • Regulation