The DPZ Charrette

The term ‘charrette’ is derived from the French word for ‘little cart’ and refers to the intense work of architects before a deadline. At the nineteenth century Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris, as carts circulated to collect final drawings, students would jump on the ‘charrette’ to put the final touches on their presentations.

Experience the entire charrette process for our Camana Bay project in the Cayman Islands, produced by Radiant Features for PBS. Watch the video above to relive our East Fraserlands/River District Charrette with us, and learn about the DPZ Charrette process from one of our valued clients.

The Charrette & Community Engagement

The Charrette is the preferred method of planning which DPZ has developed in our traditional planning practice.

In a one- to two-week work session, the charrette assembles key decision-makers to collaborate with the DPZ team in information sharing, iterative design proposals, feedback and revisions, organizing a complex project quickly. Professionals and stakeholders identify options that are rapidly prototyped and judged, enabling informed decisions and saving months of sequential coordination.

For projects requiring public participation, the charrette is effective in managing a large audience, encouraging input and producing valuable political and market feedback. The dynamic and inclusive process, with frequent presentations, is a fast method of identifying and overcoming obstacles. The shared experience helps vest interest in the design and build support for the vision. A number of DPZ charrettes have concluded with a final presentation during a city council voting to approve the plan!

Each charrette is tailored to meet the needs of the project, including a schedule of meetings and presentations, and deployment of electronic communications such as a website and social media strategy.

DPZ charrettes typically take place at or near the project site to enable direct experience and immediate verification, but when in-situ work is not necessary or practical, the firm’s Miami office has facilities that accommodate large working groups.

Andres Duany Ignite High Point
Andres Duany delivers a public presentation on Smart Growth and New Urbanism at the opening of the Ignite High Point Charrette in High Point, NC.

The DPZ Charrette at a Glance

Phase 1: Pre-Charrette

The pre-charrette process begins with client education, program assessment, and charrette planning. The Project Manager and the Principals or Partners work in advance with our client to explain the traditional town planning concepts and their possible political impacts. Project data, preliminary development programs, and building/zoning regulations are collected and reviewed with our client. Our client and DPZ outline the political approval process and generate a strategy to include all the regulatory agencies, approving officials, and citizens of the community into the charrette process.

 DPZ Site Tour
DPZ partners, Senen Antonio and Matt Lambert, tour a project site with our clients, and discuss options for maximizing development potential while being sensitive to the natural surroundings.

Phase 2: The Charrette

On the first day, after setting up the charrette studio, the DPZ team tours the project site and its surroundings, to identify relevant constraints and opportunities. including vernacular building types. A thorough briefing on site data and project design parameters is provided by the client and consultants. The first evening may include a DPZ presentation on smart growth, new urbanism and traditional neighborhood design, or other topics as required.

 DPZ Daniel Morales Ignite High Point
DPZ Team members update design proposals while receiving input from the public meeting on the other side of the studio.

The first days of the charrette are devoted to meetings with specifically identified interest groups and agencies, to receive at the outset as much information as possible. Preliminary designs are undertaken, responding to early information. Periodic presentations of draft proposals elicit reactions to which the design team can further respond, in a process that is repeated several times during the week. Daily team presentations to the client and an optional mid-term presentation to the public ensure a thorough feedback loop.

The charrette ends with a formal presentation of a series of comprehensive technical documents: illustrative plans and renderings, quantity documentation to inform development scenarios, public space and building designs specific to given programs, explanatory diagrams including potential phasing, and urban and architectural design guidelines.

Phase 3: Post-Charrette

The final charrette presentation is refined, edited and compiled into a draft report for team and client review. Involving additional feedback from the client, this process requires a number of weeks. The final report is expected to guide project implementation, a touchstone of the original vision, as well as a framework for approvals.

Phase 4: Implementation

DPZ has a variety of relationships with clients during project implementation. These evolve with the project and they range from the ongoing oversight of a project manager, to regular site visits and progress reviews, to the installation of a Town Architect for day-to-day design guidance. In all cases, we are dedicated to assisting in the approvals process.

Post-Charrette Party in High Point
DPZ worked with community stakeholders to organize a post-charrette celebration at "The Pit" in downtown High Point that would encourage activists and decision-makers to share ideas and continue the charrette's momentum.

All Phases: Community Engagement & Public Outreach

Over the years, DPZ has developed a powerful public outreach program that maximizes the diversity of the participants by engaging with residents, businesses and community leaders. For projects where community engagement is essential, we designate one of our marketing and outreach experts to the project team, who serves as the point person between all stakeholder parties to solicit and organize input.

 Fort Myers Post-Charrette Paper
An excerpt from the 2008 Post-Charrette Paper for Fort Myers, FL. Download the full PDF.

Promotional Campaign (Pre-Charrette, Charrette & Post-Charrette)

Each project is unique and will require its own promotional mix – the combination of media and resources that comprise the project’s public outreach plan.

Electronic media is cost-effective and speedy. A project website providing current project information, provides real-time updates and a combination of social engagement platforms to solicit and respond to feedback can reach the community beyond the charrette. Social media sites release information as it is generated to facilitate community responses.

Conventional print media may complement or be preferred. The Pre- and Post-Charrette Town Paper, has proven useful as a means of encouraging participation and providing information about the project and the process. Local newspaper articles/ads, and various media interviews, as well as mailed invitations can be used as well. In the case of communities that are difficult to engage, announcements through local churches or enclosed with utility bills also can be effective.

Other Pre- and Post-Charrette Papers

Call us

Miami, FL: 305-644-1023
Washington, DC: 301-948-6223
Portland, OR: 305-644-1023
Berlin, Germany: 49 30 2693293