- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: Island Press; Second Edition edition (November 16, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1597260525
- ISBN-13: 978-1597260527
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.5 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,064,593 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Design Charrettes for Sustainable Communities Second Edition Edition
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Design Charrettes for Sustainable Communities
July 23, 2008
Author: Patrick Condon (Island Press, 2007)
Design charrettes are one of the best planning tools in the planner's arsenal, this I've known for a while. But the details of what it takes to make a charrette successful have never been spelled out for me; I've learned from watching and experiencing mostly. So Patrick Condon's book Design Charrettes for Sustainable Communities was a welcome addition to my library - a chance to hear from an expert on how to do it right.
Design charrettes are those exhausting multi-day events where you get a very particular group of people together (designers and stakeholders, the mix depending on your purpose) and hammer out a vision or plan for an area. You just roll up your sleeves and do it. No hemming and hawing for months, just do it. It's thrilling and amazing and very tiring to be involved in one but the outcome is often a great plan that would have otherwise taken months or years to put together.
Patrick Condon, a landscape architecture professor and head of UBC's James Taylor Chair in Landscape and Liveable Environments , has organized and participated in scores of design charrettes. In this book he shares all the gritty details of why you need to have charrettes, which kind to have, and what you have to do to make them work (before, during, and after).
Although Condon has aimed to write the book to be understandable by the average citizen, his real target audience is those who have access to the funding and connections necessary to put on a charrette of the type he describes: municipal staff, politicians, large non-profit groups, etc.
The book takes the reader through the theory of charrettes and explains why you really ought to do them when you can. He makes a good case for them, despite their apparent costliness. One of the biggest advantages he points out is their ability to get projects past the "window of no" - charrettes can get all the relevant people together to agree to do something new, which in any municipality is a remarkable achievement.
The major enlightenment for me was the detailed section on the pre-charrette workshops and the amount of work that goes into preparing the design brief for the charrette team. This is a significant part of the work and Condon makes it very clear what has to be done to get concise, agreed-upon directions and targets for the charrette.
Condon is also very honest about the importance of having highly skilled facilitators. He is so honest actually that I wonder how on earth one would ever find enough to run a charrette. He admits that designers who can talk while drawing, facilitating, smoothing group dynamics, and faithfully illustrating the emerging consensus (rather than his/her own solution) are worth their weight in gold.
Condon's experience working with municipalities is obvious, he clearly understands how and why municipalities function and he understands the need to work with that system where you can and how to help municipal staff break out of regulations they are trapped in. This understanding of the political realities that surround planning makes this book very valuable because it is designed to operate with these realities.
The one question I have outstanding after reading this book is whether charrettes are a tool that are out of reach of community groups that lack significant funding. Condon is convincing in his outline of the need for all the steps in his process, which means each charrette is a very involved and expensive endeavour requiring skilled facilitators and designers. What opportunities are there for smaller, less resourced groups to do smaller scale undertakings?
The other complaint is the lack of colour pictures - especially for the example drawings that resulted from Condon's charrettes. Seen in person I know these plans are beautiful but in greyscale they are unremarkable. For someone unfamiliar with the output product of charrettes, seeing the plans and sketches in colour is key.
But these are minor quibbles. Overall, the book is excellent and in a short number of pages paints a convincing picture of how powerful charrettes can be if done right, and it tells you how to ensure they are done right. The case studies are excellent and the links to online content keeps the book uncluttered while allowing access to a rich source of material. This book is an excellent resource for anyone involved in planning.
By Lisa Brideau