What is a Charette?


Simply put, a charette is an intense design exercise within a set (and often all too short) period of time. A derivative of the French word for ‘cart’, the term refers to a time when students of the école des Beaux-Arts would be so committed to their final projects that they would work feverishly on the final touches  until a ‘cart’ came around to collect them. Some students would even climb up onto the cart and continue to put the finishing touches on their work as it was wheeled around the studio!

Charettes have since evolved to include sessions of ideation amongst teams. In the workplace, they are often used to kick-off and invigorate the schematic design phase. This collaborative setting allows for the free flow of thought between designers, where ideas build upon each other until a fitting concept or design solution is found.

Maddy Gorman, an IIDA Oregon Chapter Student Member, describes her experience at the 2014 Local Student Design Charette as an invaluable experience and opportunity for networking with professional Interior Designers.

“ The Student Design Charrette last Spring was my first and favorite IIDA event (so far). I wanted to get more involved as a student, so I convinced myself to attend, despite being nervous about working on a fast-paced project with someone I had never met before. It ended up being incredibly invigorating. I learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses by working with my partner, and about how I think as a designer. It was also the first time applying what I have learned in school to something outside of my classes. I highly recommend this event to students. It is so much fun, you start connecting with people in the design field early, and it shows you what you are capable of that you may not have realized.”

(Maddy is currently a 5th year student at the University of Oregon studying Interior Architecture. She was also a student Interior Design intern for Ankrom Moisan Architects this past summer. Maddy first connected with the firm at the 2014 Oregon Student Design Charette).

The energy exhibited during a charette highlights the power and possibility of design. It is a positive and rejuvenating experience that reinforces the value of working together as a team.

The West Coast Chapters of IIDA (Northern Pacific, Northern California, Southern California and Oregon)  are excited to offer charette competitions to IIDA Student Members as a way to highlight their exceptional talents while providing them with  an experience that will better prepare them for their future as professionals.