Year | 2016
Location | Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Client |  The Israac Somali Community Association

In collaboration with the Empowering Design Practices research project

For the past 30 years this Grade 2 listed building has been at the centre of Somali community life in the city. It is both a refuge and a resource, providing a space for everything from help navigating the complexities of your council tax, to hosting your wedding. This has been made possible due to the continual lease of the building to Israac from the council, allowing them to focus their efforts on helping Sheffield’s Somali community. This arrangement, however, is coming to an end. As Israac move towards ownership of the building, the organisation faces a raft of new challenges:

“How do we manage this space?”

“How will we pay the bills?”

“What does this mean for our future?”

We were initially asked to focus on developing design proposals for the hall and its number of underused spaces. We quickly understood, however, that simply providing plans and visualisations would not be enough to ensure Israac’s future. Equally important was the need for us to reveal the value of their networks, foster wider connections and leave behind a more informed client. In identifying and engaging with the project’s key stakeholders, we began to understand that they want, and need, to open their doors to a wider range of uses, but this brings to the organisation a new set of dilemmas:

“How is a balance struck between the ethnically defined somali community and the proximately defined local community?”

“How are we able to be both a safe haven for one community and an open, welcoming centre for another?”

“And how can we accommodate commercial uses without compromising this community function?”

With these issues in mind, we identified a series of actions to ensure that the organisation not only survives, but thrives. These include immediate interventions to increase understanding and awareness of the organisation, breaking down the threshold between the hall and the surrounding community. In the short term, we created a survival pack that looks to establish meanwhile uses within the hall’s underused spaces, testing their viability for sustaining the organisation This stage was kick-started through hosting the Live Project Public Presentations, using the event as a test bed for our proposed uses. Looking further into the future, we proposed alterations to better accommodate successful uses and allow the building to realise its full potential.


Publicity Video