This Charette is Not A Tumbril

background image 417

The high school in my community is about to undergo a major redesign. I opened the morning paper and read the following headline:

Details of tonight’s high school design charette revealed Wednesday

I was puzzled because the only meaning for charette/charrette I was acquainted with was “wheeled cart,” like the one that hauled Sidney Carton to the guillotine in A Tale of Two Cities.

Come to find out, charette, also spelled charet, is a term much used in urban planning. Here’s the new definition as added to the OED in 2007

charet, n. Chiefly N. Amer. (orig. Archit.). A period of intense (group) work, typically undertaken in order to meet a deadline. Also: a collaborative workshop focusing on a particular problem or project; (Town Planning) a public meeting or conference devoted to discussion of a proposed community building project. [Probably originally with reference to the former custom among French architecture students of using a cart to carry their work on the day of an exhibition: see Trésor de la Langue Française s.v. charrette.]

Now I understand when I read something like the following:

Herbert said that during the charette, boards will be provided with outlines of the campus.

Stop making those embarrassing mistakes! Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips today!

You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!

Each newsletter contains a writing tip, word of the day, and exercise!

You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!

1 thought on “This Charette is Not A Tumbril”

  1. From the Carnegie Mellon Libraries:

    What is a Charette?
    The term “charette” evolved from a pre-1900 exercise at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in France. Architectural students were given a design problem to solve within an allotted time. When that time was up, the students would rush their drawings from the studio to the Ecole in a cart called a charrette. Students often jumped in the cart to finish drawings on the way. The term evolved to refer to the intense design exercise itself. Today it refers to a creative process akin to visual brainstorming that is used by design professionals to develop solutions to a design problem within a limited timeframe.

Leave a Comment