Multi-day Charrettes

Town Meeting

A good charrette invites a diverse range of stakeholders together for a series of focused meetings, including business leaders, residents, interest groups and design professionals, and municipal planning staff.

The term comes from the French for "little cart." In 18th century Paris, architecture students at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts were assigned a tough design problem for their final exam. Working right up to the deadline, they would sketch frantically until their instructor pulled up a small cart, a charrette, to carry their drawing boards off for grading.

The term has come to refer to deadline-driven planning meetings between designers and stakeholders. Like the students, engineers and neighborhood leaders are challenged to work out complex design issues within a specific timeframe, crafting a wide and lasting agreement prior to breaking ground. Timelines could range from a single meeting to an extended series over the course of five days, it all depends on the complexity and the contentiousness of the issue.

The emphasis is on inclusively, bringing to the table all who will be immediately impacted by the project as well as those positioned to provide special insight. Neighborhood associations, church leaders, social workers, and school & youth organizations may not immediately come to mind as charrette participants but they quite frequently provide valuable insights. Inviting input from a such groups leads to outcomes more inline with shared ideals and builds buy-in from a broad spectrum of the community.