ORGANIZING A DESIGN CHARRETTE: gathering a visual response for learning spaces (a packet)

May 24, 2011, 12:11 pm

We’re gearing up for a sizeable renovation and I’ve been trying to include students and faculty in on the interior design discussion. I’m planning a full post on the campaign later this summer—most likely after ALA—but in the meantime, I wanted to share this with others working on similar projects.

I’m a big fan of the design charrette activity. Having used it before, I definitely wanted to include it in my current efforts. It’s easy to conduct and students always seem to enjoy it as an outlet for creative expression. It’s also helpful to gather a visual response when talking about learning spaces.

This time around I wanted to conduct the charrette in a very public setting. I wanted everyone who entered the library to see it happening and to have the opportunity to participate—or at the very least to take s look at the renderings and other information that was posted on easels. We’ve been sharing lots of building info with them, but this was an open opportunity for engagement.

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So you want to do a design charrette?

Where do you begin? I had a difficult time finding the furniture pieces I wanted. I looked at Steelcase and Herman Miller but without having CAD software, I could not get the files. I also looked around online but had a difficult time finding the range of furniture and the scale that I wanted to experiment with. So I made my own…

Here’s the packet: Download Ucsb_design_charette_final

You are welcome to use and modify accordingly; it’s a PowerPoint file. The packet includes instructions for the participants, as well as the greeter and the reviewer, an index of all the pieces, and paper-cutter friendly sheets with all the furniture.

There are actually 20 items ranging from tables and chairs, to computers, whiteboards, and help desks. The one confusing item that students struggled with was “group computing.” This is the general idea: media:scape, but I didn’t want to show them that image because it might influence their selection, so I tried to be vague about and say that it represented a table allowing people to share a computer screen.

I asked students to show me two distinct area types: a quiet zone and a group-oriented zone. I wanted them to think about the contrast of these two spaces. From all of my conversations and other assessment work these have been the two competing themes: we need more quiet spaces! VS. we need more collaboration space!

You might want to explore something different regarding your population and space, but I included my instructions to offer an example. I also gave my students a blank sheet of paper without any walls, pillars or other barriers because at this point things are fairly open and I’m chasing concepts and patterns, rather than specifics.

The most useful part of this exercise was chatting with the students afterwards—having them explain their designs and tell me generally about their library use. Tell me about this section here? How would you use this area right here? Tell me about the whiteboards? What’s going on over here? Tell me about these enclosed rooms?

I’ll share more details later when I disclose our full assessment program, but I just wanted to put this out there for others working on renovations. It’s hard to find a ready-made packet with everything you need so hopefully others will find this useful as well.

And a big thanks to everyone who helped– from cutting sheets of paper, to sorting, to planning, facilitating, prep, taken down, and everything else in-between.

See also:

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