I learned early on in my career what constitutes as a charrette and what is simply a brainstorming exercise. The terminology is often misused and in all actuality very few charrettes actually occur. The definition of charrette provided from the National Charrette Institute (CharretteInstitute.Org) is “a multiple-day, collaborative design workshop that harnesses the talents and energies of all interested parties to create and support a feasible plan that represents transformative community change.” I was introduced to the true charrette process shortly after getting out of college while I was working with HDR in Omaha. At HDR, I participated in three 4-day charrettes where a good mixture of architects and planners from around the country were brought in for participation. They were intense days that typically went past 10 pm each evening.
Since that time, I have participated in many other brainstorming exercises where the public was involved and a working team of architects, landscape architects, etc. participated. Typically, these were less than one day in duration, therefore disqualified from the term charrette. Brainstorming exercises are also a very effective component to public participation. They are informative in gathering feedback from the public and establishing the vision of a community.
Advantages of a Charrette over Brainstorming:
- Charrettes provide nearly instant modifications of plans from feedback, where brainstorming typically requires the public to have faith that changes will occur and not know until a future meeting or email.
- Charrettes limit the amount of revisions that a plan has to have by having hands-on feedback on an intense schedule of a matter of days.
- Less behind-the-scenes design which provides greater acceptance by the public.
- Design team is focused on one goal/project rather than juggling a few. More focused approach adds to efficiency in the design.
- Public opportunities available for four consecutive days.
All of these advantages translate into cost savings for the client and greater appreciation from the public. The charrette process also encourages a multitude of design professionals from other firms/parts of the country. This variety assists in getting the best possible design solution.
Related Post: How to Avoid Master Plans that Collect Dust.