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. 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.

Kiana Taie, a winning team member of the IIDA Southwest Chapter Regional Finals, describes her experience at the 2017 Student Design Charette as invaluable and a great opportunity for networking with professional Interior Designers.

“I am a member of the IIDA Southwest Chapter and with the recommendation of a classmate, participated in the IIDA Student Design Charette in the Spring of 2017 while I was in my second year as a Master of Interior Architecture student at Arizona State University. My team won the local competition and proceeded onto regionals, which happened to also be in Phoenix. After the regional event, a member of the planning committee invited me to come in and interview at her office. Thanks to the exposure from the Charette, I am now a designer at the Gensler Phoenix office, and was even on the committee this past Fall! I strongly encourage students to participate because this unique event is unlike any other in our industry. The experience is exhilarating, you have the opportunity to work with talented individuals and potentially travel!”

The Western Region Chapters of IIDA (Northern Pacific, Northern California, Southern California, Oregon, Southwest, and Rocky Mountain)  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. Students are encouraged to sign up for the Regional Qualifiers being held this February through their IIDA Chapters. Winners of the local events will be flown to the Western Region Student Design Charette finals, which will be held this year in Portland, Oregon on April 7th, 2018. Stay tuned for more information about what to expect for the Regional event and which winners will move on to the International Finals at NeoCon in Chicago this June!

Photos by Andy Green, IIDA Southwest Chapter. Content by Sarah Weber & Elsa Long, IIDA Oregon Chapter – Past Presidents, and Claire Smith, IIDA Oregon Chapter –  VP of Communications.