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Defining 'Charette'

April 07, 1991

An item appearing in the Westside Digest March 28 on a planning session for Culver City gave an incorrect definition for the word "charette." Allow me to set the record straight.

The first part of your description was correct: Charette is indeed a French word meaning a small cart. You erred, however, concerning its origin and its application today.

In its architectural sense, the term found its origin in the mid-19th Century among students at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris, and it refers to meeting a deadline for completion of a project. The term was derived from the school's practice of sending the charette, or horse-drawn cart, around to the students' studios to collect their projects. Students not yet finished would climb on the charette and work feverishly to complete the project as the vehicle traveled from studio to studio collecting the students' works. The trip sometimes took many hours, allowing the students the time they needed to finish their work.

As used by architects today, "charette" usually refers to the architect putting in long hours, such as an all-night session or a full weekend, to complete a project for submittal to a client or agency.

ALBERT M. RODEN

Sherman Oaks

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