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A.Word.A.Day--charrette

Pronunciation RealAudio

charrette (shuh-RET) noun

1. A final intense effort to complete a design project.

2. A preliminary meeting involving stakeholders (citizens, planners, designers, etc.) to brainstorm or to elicit input on a project.

[From French charrette (cart), from Old French. How we get from a cart to the above mentioned senses is not clear. It's perhaps from the idea of speed when referring to wheels. Also, according to a story, professors at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris collected students' drawings in a cart and the latter would often jump on the charrette to complete last-minute details.]

"Kelty has participated in charrettes, both as a student and a professional. The deadline pressure and the collaboration among participants with different backgrounds gives an edge of intensity to the creative process." Linda Lipp; Creativity in Crunch Time; The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Indiana); Jun 23, 2003.

"Today will be the last day of the charrette. Residents and business owners, as well as potential business owners, are encouraged to attend." Jamie Stockwell; Ideas Under Development for Downtown; The Washington Post; Nov 6, 1999.

Guest wordsmith Mary Steer writes:

I never gave architecture much thought - beyond admiring some examples and deriding others - until I read a book that changed the way I look not only at buildings, but also at the world.

The Most Beautiful House in the World is architect and writer Witold Rybczynski's memoir of erecting a building (a boat shed, initially), but it explores much more than the basic architectural elements of location, situation, materials and technical method.

Rybczynski delves into many related themes, including feng shui, children's building games, famous houses and architects... The Most Beautiful House in the World is, without doubt, one of the most wonderful books in the world - and after reading it, I began to notice my surroundings in a new way.

I've also been fascinated by the occasional issues of RIBA's (Royal Institute of British Architects) online magazine that come my way, thanks to my architectural uncle, and this week's theme was inspired by an article in that journal about "charrettes".

So many excellent words come from the art of building and the description of buildings - and we have "borrowed" many of them to use as metaphors in daily life. We talk of pain thresholds or of being on the threshold of a new experience; we praise those who may be seen as the cornerstone or keystone of any organisation or endeavour. This week, we sample a few architectural words.

Mary Steer is a freelance writer and artists' model living in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

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