First of all, for those who may be unfamiliar with the term, a "charrette" generally refers to any time intensive design activity. Architects under an intense time deadline will sometimes refer to be 'en charrette' or 'charette-ing'. It is sometimes used synonymously with the term 'all-nighter', although that is not the context in which I am using it here.
The term charrette can also be used to refer to a group planning or design activity. We have done those types of charrettes here at COD on several occasions, as shown in the image above from the 'Rebulding Together Aurora' charrette we hosted in 2013. In these instances, the charrette is a valuable tool to get students and design professionals working in a creative and collaborative environment.
The origin of the term charrette is a derivative of the French term meaning "little cart". As legend has it, during the time of the origin of the Ecole des Beaux Arts, intructors would travel from studio to studio throughout Paris, collecting final assignments on a small horsedrawn cart. Sometimes, in the panic of a deadline, a student would be know to jump on to the cart while the project was being collected to put the finishing touches on their work of art. Hence the term 'en charrette', or 'in the cart'.
In the context of my design studio, I am using this term to refer to short, intense, sometimes collaborative, design activities.
I like using charrettes for several reasons.
First, charrettes get students moving. Whenever I feel that there is a lull in the studio, I consider a charrette to amp up the productivity. This week I planned a charrette for the first class after spring break, knowing that there would be a significant (post spring break Monday morning) sluggishness in the studio.
And maybe (hopefully) - each student will now be able to return to their own project with a fresh set of eyes and an open mind for developing their work creatively. Perhaps there will even be some intuitive leaps.