WHAT IS A CHARRETTE?
Charrette (shä-r?e t´) n.
“A planning session that usually takes anywhere from several days to a week and incorporates the expertise of a variety of individuals. Some planners use this method when designing traditional neighborhood developments (TNDs). It is thought that by including as many community members as possible in the process, a better product is arrived at more efficiently. The term is derived from the French term for “little cart” and refers to the final intense work effort expended by architects to meet a project deadline. In Paris, during the 19th century, professors at the Ecole de Beaux Arts circulated with little carts to collect final drawings from their students. Students would jump on the “charrette” to put finishing touches on their presentation minutes before the deadline.”
So why am I telling you this?
Well the local Governors Commission has been using a Charrette process to try to make rapid headway with plans for rebuilding the Gulf Coast so heavily devastated by Katrina.
The commission is putting together recommendations for the coastal cities, the counties and even the entire state of Mississippi. We have an opportunity here to clean up the image of Mississippi and rebuild its tourist center as a beautiful, attractive coastal region and the commission hopes to help formulate a plan to make that possible.
Today as part of that process they held a public committee meeting that, in essence, presented their progress to date (although I hasten to add that this was not a full report, but merely a discussion of ‘work in progress’). What they had to tell us is reasonably well summarised in this report.
My own summary is as follows (and it is a severe summarisation)
– Rebuild the coast as a series of more traditional towns.
– Bring back the Town Center.
– Make building codes more strict.
– Go for blended zoning, so residential and businesses can be built together.
– Improve public transport.
– Make it possible to walk and cycle about the neighbourhood and have somewhere you can actually go to if you do!!
– Suggested building patterns (style guides for the web- and print-savvy among us) – a pattern book has already been produced and it will be available to everybody.
– Move the railroad tracks from the center of all the coastal towns to a more northerly location.
– Use the site of the current tracks tas the foundation for a new east/west highway that becomes a ‘fast’ route along the coast.
– Slow down highway 90 (the beach road that was mostly destroyed by the storm) and make it a sceneic boulevard – 50 miles long! – so the beach can again be an attraction.
– Make public access to the beach for work, rest and play easy and attractive.
There’s more, but you get the idea. Again, to stress, these are ideas under discussion. No doubt they will evolve. Some things will fall by the wayside, others will be replaced or diluted. But t least, in my opinion, they are making a good and positive start.
It’s just a shame that they have no real authority. The guidelines the commission comes up with will be exactly that – guidelines. Nothing they suggest can be enforced in any way unless local governments adopt them and apply them as local law, ordinance, zoning regulation or whatever the correct local terminoligy would be…