User-Participation and the Design Charrette: A Systematic Approach to Furthering Design Process

  • Alexandra Staub Pennsylvania State University
  • Lisa D Iulo Pennsylvania State University
Keywords: design, charrette, community engagement, participatory process


Research in architecture is a many-splendored thing. Technical questions on energy efficiency or materiality, social inquiry on user habits or satisfaction, and philosophical queries about the sense of space and place, all fall within the accepted realm of architecture and its creation. Much less considered is how the design process itself may purposefully be used as a research tool to elicit information that will adjust its outcome. This is perhaps because design is often considered “intuitive” rather than systematic, but it is nevertheless surprising when one considers the central role that design takes in architectural education, and more surprising still when one discovers that related disciplines, such as geography, have begun to examine pre-design steps for their research applicability. This paper examines how design – in this case the design charrette – may explicitly be used as a research methodology to change the very planning dialog that it is drawing upon for its process decisions, or put another way, how the designer uses focused discussions with user groups to obtain information vital to the planning process, while at the same time using the ensuing product to stimulate discussion beyond what would be possible without the design. Drawing on a case study taken from the teaching environment, this paper takes the position that design, both as an iterative process and as a participatory field-research process in the form of charrettes, may successfully be employed as a methodology to establish a dialog between researchers (in this case student-practitioners) and user groups. The latter provide initial design information to the researcher while at the same time using evolving products of the research to help define further parameters for exploration. This methodological approach has helped to focus the student-architects on genuine aspects of design problems, as opposed to self-fabricated ones.
How to Cite
Staub, A., & Iulo, L. (2014). User-Participation and the Design Charrette: A Systematic Approach to Furthering Design Process. ARCC Conference Repository.