All the players are invited, the agenda is set and the charrette room is reserved; now we need to set the stage for the event. To have a really good charrette, you need to prepare yourselves and the attendees so that the maximum exchange of information, dialogue and ideas can occur.
We revisited FSB’s visitor center experience and researched a global sampling of freestanding centers to create a list of programmatic cues and architectural material palettes for reflection by participants prior to and during the charrette. As the French term “charrette” always requires an illuminating dissertation, we re-titled the event using terms that were more self explanatory and named it the “Project Definition Workshop.”
I wanted to define a clear picture of what we wanted to do, how we would go about it and what we wanted to come out of the effort. So we created a Pre-Programming Packet for all attendees. The packet contains background info, program workshop process, project definition guidelines and representative program elements. The appendix contains project site plan, national park plan/history/historic brochures and photos/data from comparable facilities.
To galvanize the focus of the charrette we defined a clear approach and objectives:
Purpose: the purpose of the Project Definition Workshop is to explore ideas and design issues that will guide and mold the solution for the Chickasaw Nation Visitor Center.
Process: conduct interactive sessions with staff, users, and administration to discuss goals, types of functions, space needs, site considerations, and architectural style that will provide a direction for the design of the new Visitor Center.
Outcome: produce a Programmatic Study document that:
- States the Mission and Goals for the Chickasaw Nation Visitor Center
- Summarizes the Project Definition and Summary of Spaces
- Presents Conceptual Design Solutions
- Develops a Preliminary Budget and Schedule
Our research showed that similar free standing facilities ranged from 4,200 to 11,000 square feet, however, we anticipate the scale of the visitor center project will be around 7000-8000 square feet. We felt the charrette could be done in one full day. Assuming that I could keep everyone on task and minimize the number of side bar discussions without dampening the creativity of open dialogue and ideas, the workshop would to begin at 9 am and conclude at 5 pm with a working lunch at mid day. It’s “game on” in one week.