The story so far (a potential future history of the Marsa Open Centre) / by Jedidiah

In the fall of 2011, a small public library was established at the Marsa Open Centre. The library was constructed in the former space of a Somali-food restaurant within the Centre. The operations of this restaurant were combined with another Somali restaurant also on the site but a cafe counter remains at the new library where coffee and tea is served to the patrons. At the same time as the work on the library was done, a public courtyard was constructed directly inside the entrance to the Centre. This shaded, quiet space with ample seating, linked the entrance to the MOC to the new library. The courtyard acted as a transitional zone between the MOC and the outside community. It created the possibility for the residents of Centre and people from the outside community to meet in a comfortable, safe, and positive environment. From the courtyard they could choose to access the library, directly adjacent along a colonnade, or visit the rest of the Centre.

As time went on and the library became more and more successful it began to outgrow the single room in which it was housed and demands for a larger facility with expanded services grew. Since the construction of the library was designed to be completely reversible, it was easy to adapt its function from that of the main library to a resource Centre for MOC residents. It was decided that a completely new building would be constructed that would house the main library functions as well as classrooms and a job centre. It would be called the "Marsa Community Centre" (MCC).

The MCC would create an entirely new main entrance to the MOC that would make access to the Centre easier and more visible to the outside community. The building itself would bridge the canal at the centre of the site and hover over top of the existing classrooms on the main yard. This yard would be developed simultaneously into a vibrant public space, a "central plaza" for the MOC. The "Market Yard" would take advantage of its position at the heart of the MOC surrounded by restaurants, shops, housing, and the new community centre. Infrastructure (shade, tables, seating) for a marketplace would be constructed to support an already burgeoning desire for entrepreneurial support among the MOC residents. It would be the main outdoor meeting place between MOC residents and the Marsa community.

The MCC building would be a highly visible symbol of the new outward-looking spirit of the MOC. It would act as a bridge both across the canal into the Centre and between cultures. The MCC was conceived as a long public corridor under a beautiful rainwater-harvesting and shade-providing roof that would link together its functions. The MCC was laid out as a series of public and community spaces (classrooms and meeting rooms) off the corridor that would gradually draw the users further along its length and toward the Market Yard at the heart of the Centre. As in the previous courtyard and library sequence, people entering the MCC were greeted with a welcoming, sociable space: a grand staircase with large, deep steps for sitting, reading, waiting for a friend, or watching a street performance at the base of the stairs. The steps further up contained public computers and magazines for browsing.

As the MOC grew in diversity of functions and users, it became necessary to develop method of way-finding in order to make the possible routes through the site more understandable and to identify particular programme. Three colours were chosen that would be applied to the three main functions of the MOC: housing, community services, and public gathering spaces (including restaurants and commerce). Pathways would also be clearly marked in their own colour in order to facilitate flow throughout the Centre.