2007-09-27 / Editorial

Defining a word: Jamestown's 'charrette'


Big changes are afoot as Jamestown is getting ready to change its planning process and zoning ordinance to comply with the Comprehensive Community Plan. Islanders are invited to participate in the Community Vision Workshop tonight - Thursday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. - at the recreation center. This workshop is in preparation for the upcoming design charrette in October.

I've been asked more than once, "What is a charrette?" Here's the answer:

The French word charrette is defined as an intense period of design activity. The online Wikipedia states that "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."

Relating to what is happening in Jamestown, the Wikipedia says, "charrettes take place in many disciplines, including urban planning. In urban planning, the charrette has become a technique for consulting with all stakeholders. Such charrettes typically involve intense, possibly, multi-day meetings, involving municipal officials, developers, and residents."

As for the history of the word, Wikipedia notes it originates "from the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the nineteenth century, the word charrette is from the French for "cart" or "chariot." Student architects still working furiously at the very last minute on the grand illustrations that were their design presentations, literally, while in the school cart ("en charrette"), as it was wheeled through the streets of Paris on its way for submission to their professors."

Be a part of Jamestown's charrette. Don't miss tonight's meeting so you are prepared for the charrette. Your views can become part of the Jamestown vision for the decades ahead.

Visit JamestownVision.org to learn more.

- Jeff McDonough

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