Charrette Opens Discussion on Creative Spaces in Public Places

August 15, 2017

We know you’re thinking: What the heck is a charrette?

Charrette, or two-wheeled cart in French, evolved to mean an intense design exercise at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Today, charrette refers to a creative process used by design professionals to explore and develop creative solutions over a short period of time.

And that’s exactly what happened August 3 and 4, 2017 when the Scott Family Amazeum invited creative thinkers from across the country to ideate on creative spaces in public places, including our own front- and backyard. The driving question behind the charrette: How do we collaboratively create spaces for people to explore the world together in order to bring the world together?

Shawn Lani, Director of the Studio for Public Spaces at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, and Sam Dean, Executive Director of the Scott Family Amazeum, opened the first day of the charrette by orchestrating creative collisions between members of the Northwest Arkansas community using examples of public projects and research on public spaces. This laid the foundation for constructing a conversation among representatives from museums, non-profit groups, and community planning organizations. All these groups are working to continue NWA’s integration of community, culture, science, technology, art, and recreation into a destination experience for our neighbors and guests from around the world.  

Charrette participants heard from design experts from across the country and Northwest Arkansas. Emily McCoy, Associate Principal at Andropogon Associates in Philadelphia, shared research linking art and science with engineering spaces integrating people, environment, and activity. Matthew Lister, Director at Gehl in New York City, provided a comprehensive overview of decades of research in creating spaces in urban landscapes for “micro-moments” to occur. Daniel Hintz, principal at Velocity Group in Bentonville, embedded the discussion of creative spaces into the context of Northwest Arkansas and efforts to develop a “DNA of Place.”

With the theoretical groundwork laid, Josh Seibert, principal architect with Modus Studios in Fayetteville, shared his firm’s Garvan Woodland Gardens Education Tree House project in Hot Springs, AR that provided a concrete example constructing a creative space where people engaged with content and each other.

Greg Belew, principal at Hands On! Studio in St. Petersburg, FL, presented a specific case study that integrated STEAM into an outdoor learning space. Focusing attention on the types of planning, material selection, and engineering that make amazing outdoor exhibits possible, Greg helped underscore how big choices and small choices intersect for long-term sustainability of incredible experiences.

And Monica Diodati, project manager with the Better Block Foundation, ignited the group with her presentation on the power of collaboratively creating public spaces to improve access and use by people to build community.

By the end of the day, ideas were abundant on how outdoor spaces serve as creative platforms for public engagement by everyone and must work to make a “somewhere” for people to be and interact with each other. Ideally, those “somewheres” are scattered across Northwest Arkansas, connected by infrastructure abundant with opportunities for micro-moments. By the end of the day, a creative supercollider of ideas for creative public spaces was fully operational.  

The second day focused on next steps for the Amazeum regarding the outdoor space surrounding the museum and improving the physical, emotional, cultural, and educational connection to Crystal Bridges. Presenters from the day before joined staff from the Amazeum and Crystal Bridges in thinking big about how co-created experiences could enhance the community and interaction with content at both museums, especially now that the North Woods trail links both facilities. Look for great things to happen along Museum Way in the future.

We want to hear from you. What do you want to see in our outdoor spaces? How can we collaborate to create “micro-moments” and “somewheres” that enhance the user experience in our front- and backyard? Consider this an invitation to a digital charrette. All ideas are welcome. Submit your ideas and comments on our Facebook page using #creativespaces.


Updated October 31st, 2017:

The Exploratorium and the Amazeum have produced a report detailing major highlights from the day.

Click here to download the summary report.  

To download presentations from our guests, click below:

Shawn Lani, Exploratorium

Matthew Lister, Gehl Architects

Monica Diodati, Better Block Foundation

Greg Belew, Hands-On! Studio.

Daniel Hintz, Velocity Group

Josh Siebert, Modus Studio

Emily McCoy, Andropogon