Sunday, July 13, 2008

Charrette - The New Brainstorming

A design charrette (sometimes spelled charette in English) consists of an intense period of design activity involving a group of stakeholders trying to solve a common problem.

The word charrette may refer to any collaborative session in which a group of designers drafts a solution to a design problem. While the structure of a charrette varies, depending on the design problem and the individuals in the group, charrettes often take place in multiple sessions in which the group divides into sub-groups. Each sub-group then presents its work to the full group as material for future dialogue. Such charrettes serve as a way of quickly generating a design solution while integrating the aptitudes and interests of a diverse group of people. Compare this term with workshop.

Charrettes take place in many disciplines. In urban planning, the charrette has become a technique for consulting with all stakeholders. Such charrettes typically involve intense and possibly multi-day meetings, involving municipal officials, developers, and residents. A successful charrette promotes joint ownership of solutions and attempts to defuse typical confrontational attitudes between residents and developers.

As an example of a charrette, Pennsylvania University's design branch called Penn Praxis recently completed a two-year process of designing a seven-mile stretch of the Delaware River Front in Philadelphia. This process, involving numerous meetings and hundreds of participants, was referred to as Plan Philly and recently culminated in a presentation to a packed auditorium with a major presentation (above right) by the Mayor of Philadelphia promising to go ahead with many aspects of the plan. On the far left in the photo above is Mayor Nutter and to his left is Harris Steinberg who coordinated the massive effort for Penn Praxis.

Click on the photo for a larger view.
Click on the heading above to see the Action Plan.

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