Helping Guide Life: A changing community space in Turkey.

Professor Robert Mull is helping architecture students team up with Syrian refugees and low-income Turkish residents to create a new community space in Izmir.

As well as being Professor of Architecture and Design at University of Brighton, Professor Mull is Visiting Professor at Sweden’s Umeå University, helping in their collaboration with Yaşar University in Turkey to create designs for an inspiring rooftop community space to be shared by Izmir’s large Syrian refugee community and Turkish residents in the city.

Turkey is host to around four million Syrian refugees, with about 130,000 living in Izmir. The new space will be part of the TIAFI Community Centre, which offers support to refugees and Turkish groups needing help navigating asylum, education, health and social services.

The rooftop building and surrounding space will create a place for safe outdoor play, socialising and urban gardening for children and adults to support community integration, as well as providing education and trauma therapy. It aims to be both a sanctuary for the TIAFI (Team International Assistance for Integration) community and a beacon of hope for an under-served local neighbourhood.

Professor Mull said:TIAFI is an extraordinary community project led and run by inspiring volunteers. Our students have been engaging with TIAFI and its clients for the past two years.  We now have the opportunity to stop drawing and to start building. The finished rooftop will not only have a decisive impact on the lives of the refugees supported by TIAFI but on our students, who will be able to test their skills and value as architects, in response to one of the most pressing urban challenges we face as a global community.”

Meltem Gürel, Professor at Yaşar University, added:The project presented a wonderful opportunity for architecture students to understand problems of all communities, including Syrian migrants, living in the socio-economically underdeveloped regions of Izmir. They came up with very innovative proposals and were highly motivated to work on a live project with an international team. They will have the opportunity for building their designs to make a difference in the lives of all migrant communities.”

Students from Umea and Yaşar will finalise designs for construction to begin at the end of 2021.

The new building is part of a research project called Wellbeing, Housing and Infrastructure in Turkey (WHIT)funded by the British Academy, who will also be supporting the construction of the rooftop space.