INTRODUCTION TO CHARRETTE
Charrette Week in Newcastle University starts every academic year bringing a host of artists, architects, engineers, designers and thinkers to the University to run a series of week-long design projects. This week could be seen as an annual design festival for School of Architecture Planning and Landscape. Students from a variety of taught design courses at both undergraduate and master levels have an opportunity to join together to devise a combination of creative outputs. We also got a good chance to improve our communication skills and experience the teamwork. The theme for this year is Flux, Flex, and Fluff.
THE DESIGN PROCESS
Students were initially separated into several groups of 30 each being assigned a different task for the week. The “Wall” was our group’s theme and we have split again into six small teams of 5 to 7 each being asked to design our own walls. Our task is to explore what a wall means to us and our team by building a physical wall at the end.
At the very beginning, we were asked to draw the first image in our minds of a new Hadrian’s Wall in 30 minutes and pinned it up to show others what our personal thoughts of a wall. Then we were divided into small teams to start our “Charrette Week”. Each of our teams was given a base wooden board with 600 mm wide and 1200 mm length to build our wall on. The brain-storming should be an efficient start way in a teamwork because it can easily draw our attention to the topic. We were going to build an inclusive wall which can interact with people. The main purpose of our wall is to give passengers a chance to use it as a communication space. By the end of the first day, we keep our mind in design a functional wall to the public rather than a normally solid or a sculpture wall.
On Tuesday, we visited Hoults Yard, a local creative area with a lot of amazing walls scrawls in Byker, to see how ordinary walls can be transformed into extraordinary icons. The place was surprised me as I haven’t been there even I studied in Newcastle for four years. The pictures below are the scrawl walls on the site.
In the following three days of the week, we have designed and built our own wall. The function of the wall we were going to design could be an infrastructure with seating areas and a table. The public can use it as a coffee bar to have a rest or have a chat with friends. The wall was divided into three parts, which the top part could be a whiteboard that people can use the pen we prepared to draw or write on it; the changeable table was placed on the middle part that could be pushed up as a solid wall and pulled down as a table for people to have a cup of coffee; on the bottom is a storage section placed in two external seats. People can use just one side to have a rest or use both sides to have a chat with friends. We spent the rest three days to make the physical model in the workshop. Model making could be the most challenging part for us during the week because of the very limited time.
On Friday afternoon, all of our 6 teams were asked to present our physical walls in front of the Architecture Building. It was a fantastic experience when we presented our walls to the other APL students. Although the final model might not be a successful design, we have tried our best to be creative during the week. We also had a chance to see the rest of the school had been doing with their themes.
This Charrette Week festival is intended to be an intensive and enjoyable week where students from APL can experiment in a creative environment. Overall, this week could be a challenging week for me due to the limited time to create a physical model, but it could also be a chance to me to work with other excellent people who are in different backgrounds. We were challenged by the project, but also we challenged ourselves to be a creative person during this Charrette Week. It should be a good beginning of my master study.