Published: April 1, 2015
Publisher: Activist Architecture, Philosophy & Practice of the Community Design Center

The Seattle and Detroit Design Charrettes

The charrette, a mainstay of Ecole des Beaux-Arts architectural education that fell out of favor with the rise of Modernism, has been revived in both the academy and the profession in recent decades. What is a contemporary charrette? It is essentially a design workshop, usually one that focuses on the urban scale. A succinct description is “an illustrated brainstorm.” Two basic types have emerged: the competitive charrette in which multiple schemes are developed for the same site b different teams, and the collaborative charrette in which a single scheme is developed by teams that focus on different aspects (land use, transportation, etc.), subareas of the same site, or separate sites altogether. This essay focuses on the two dozen academic charrettes that I organized in as many years, starting at the University of Washington in 1985 and at the University of Michigan in 1999.


Douglas Kelbaugh