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What is a Design Charrette?

A design charrette is a short, collaborative meeting during which a member or client can share their work with team members. They can talk through, collaborate, and sketch designs to explore and share diverse design ideas.

Charrette, a French word meaning “chariot” or “cart,” derives from stories of architectural students in Paris in the 1800s. Students’ exams were collected in a charrette, and some continued sketching together as their designs were gathered for evaluation.

Benefits and Goals

  • being inspired by design ideas from various people
  • establishing/reinforcing the culture
  • kick-starting a design or solution
  • hearing the priorities or consensus from people
  • making each person feel listened to and considered equally

Why do we do Design Charrettes?

“Design charettes within the firm are an important part of the Iconica process. We improve our projects by having a fresh set of eyes to critique and challenge our design assumptions. Charettes expand the way we think about our projects and foster a sense of community through collaboration.” –Steve Carbin, LEED AP BD+C


Design Charette Board at Iconica


How do we use Design Charrette with Clients?

With clients, we usually start with images of an existing building that have a similar use to the client’s project. With both exterior and interior photos, a back-and-forth discussion develops regarding what the client likes or dislikes and why. The process helps us narrow in on what the client would like to see for the look and feel of the space.

For floor plan layout charrettes, it’s best to have an initial concept already sketched. That gives the participants something to react to and generates feedback regarding what does not work, why it doesn’t work, and what ideas are heading in the right direction. This is a good time to circle back to the photo images from earlier to identify possible discrepancies between the vision and the concept plan.

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