JCC architects aim to envision the design based on a user's journey

Dina Moustafa and Michael de Wolf of Mode Architecture Inc. are excited to meet members of Edmonton’s Jewish community as they learn what are the needs for the future Jewish Community Centre (JCC). Mode was commissioned to oversee the design of the building's rehabilitation at 14205 – 109 Avenue, and Michael and Dina will consult with different community members during sessions from June 2 to 9. 

They were drawn to this project because Mode focuses on rehabilitation and community work. “For sustainability reasons, we like to use existing buildings. We like to give existing buildings a new life.” says Dina. 

Designing buildings from scratch and rehabilitating a building each has its own challenges. Michael’s background is working with existing structures in the United Kingdom and in Edmonton. Michael says it can be hard for some people to walk into a shell of a building such as the new JCC and think of the possibilities. “We see the vision of what it could be in the future and see the potential. Our job is to them share this vision so others can see this before the design is finalized and construction begins,” he adds. 

Since an empty box can have many possibilities, it’s essential that Mode learns the Jewish community’s needs for a JCC. As part of their job, Michael and Dina put themselves in the users’ shoes to imagine the journey that someone would take through the facility. “We think of how they would approach the building, how they will enter, and what their needs during their visit and how they leave. We also consider the building codes and safety aspects. That’s a highly technical piece of our work,” says Michael.  

“It’s about the journey and the stories created,” adds Dina. 

The upcoming community consultations are essential to their design. “It’s more valuable if I can talk to the people who are going to be using the building and find out how they will use the space. That’s why every design is unique,” says Dina. 

Michael explains they start a project with no pre-conceived ideas. “We work the other way around to some architects who give a grand gesture or concept to start. We are working with the community and users to give the building the best design it can be for its users. If we do have any preconceived ideas, it’s more from our experience to help guide and educate others. We’re the catalyst to bring the community and expertise together,” he says. In this instance, they are designing from the inside out. 

The consultations for the future JCC will focus on being fun and interactive. Michael encourages people to attend to share their wants and needs for the facility and give input. “Sometimes what may seem like a silly idea or trivial to one person, can be pivotal for the whole project and be really important,” he says. “We like to do things a little bit differently at Mode and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We hope we come across as approachable.” 

“We want to get to know the different groups and how to bring their vision to life,” adds Dina. 

To find out more about the community consultations, visit jewishedmonton.org