The charrette workshop is most often used in communities that are too far from Muncie to use the academic studio or in situations requiring a substantial amount of community involvement. Modeled after the nationally acclaimed AIA-sponsored R/UDAT Program, this program uses the intense two- or three-day community-based workshop as a vehicle for initially responding to community-defined issues, problems, and potentials. (AIA stands for American Institute of Architects. R/UDAT stands for Regional/Urban Design Assistance Teams.)
Heavily dependent on substantial community participation, this procedure is best used at the front end of the planning-design sequence when major aims include citizen awareness and education, goal formulation, problem and issue assessment, generation of talk pieces, ideas and images, and overall strategy development. This format has been successfully used in more than 50 communities throughout the state. The faculty and students who participate in these workshops are specifically selected for their expertise, skill, and commitment to citizen participation and an interactive planning and design process. This format requires a great deal of organization and commitment on the part of the community. The planning before a workshop usually takes three to six months.
Central to this organizational effort is the designation of a contact person who will be the liaison between the community and the coordinator of Community-Based Projects (CBP). The contact person can be a public official (e.g., mayor), private sector representative (e.g., director of local chamber of commerce), or committed citizen. Even more important is the establishment of a steering committee whose members most represent the broadest spectrum of both public and private sector. This committee will normally have between 15 and 20 members and will be responsible for the logistical requirements of the workshop as well as representing the concerns of the community.
The actual workshop takes place in the community at a public facility with 24-hour access. In the past, meeting places have included firehouses, town halls, businesses, houses of worship, and community meeting rooms. The actual workshop, which lasts two or three days, is organized by the project or study director and steering committee and includes information-gathering sessions, open and closed work sessions, and public meetings. These charrette workshops have proven themselves to be great catalysts in prompting a community to analyze and establish goals and to implement programs for improvement.
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