One part of London's multi-million dollar program that "regenerates" council flats (or what we call the "projects") involves simply covering them with something that looks fancy. This is done for the benefit of the rich and also to lure wealthy people to privatised flats in publicly owned buildings. And such was the case with the 24-story brutalist Grenfell Tower in London. It was erected in the early 1970s. Did fine for more than 40 years. Then yesterday, it suddenly and dramatically burned to a crisp. Was it a terrorist bomb that made the fire so fierce? Numerous people thought so, and began tweeting racist attacks at London's Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan. But it only took 12 hours for another completely different—and probably truer—picture to emerge: no terrorists but regeneration (a British relative of American urban renewal). There are now reports that the materials used to beautify the building for rich neighbors and potential buyers are what turned an ordinary fire into a towering inferno that killed 12 people. Between 2015–2016, "the concrete structure received new windows and new aluminum composite cladding (Arconic Reynobond and Reynolux material) with thermal insulation."
The Independent breaks it down:
During a refurbishment aimed at regeneration last year, cladding was added to the sides of the building to update its look. The cladding then seems to have helped the fire spread around the building, allowing it to destroy almost the entirety of the structure and kill people inside.
And that cladding–a low-cost way of improving the front of the building–was chosen in part so that the tower would look better when seen from the conservation areas and luxury flats that surround north Kensington, according to planning documents.
All of this is apparently not lost on the residents of the tower. Listen to what a young man from the area had to say about the fire:
The deeper one falls into this tragedy, the more and more do the details at its bottom look like austerity.