October 22, 2004
by Canadian Architect
The Canadian Centre for Architecture is collaborating with universities in Montral, Qubec City, Ottawa, and Toronto on the tenth annual university charrette to inspire students to generate ideas about architecture and urban design. Called Festival Palace, this year’s charrette will be held from Thursday to Sunday, October 21-24. Between October 26-31, all projects submitted will be exhibited at the commercial building fronting St. James’ Church in Room 105, 463 Ste. Catherine Street West in Montreal, as part of the Biennale de Montral 2004. Winners will be determined by a jury of design professionals, and prizes will be presented at 5:00pm on Monday, October 25.
The CCA’s university charrette is a special challenge since it confronts students in architecture and related disciplines with the task of creating in just three days a design solution to a specific problem on a specific site. It has become an annual forum for creative young people in the fields of design and planning, bringing together all the design disciplines: architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, industrial design, interior design, and graphic design. Last year, 72 teams made up of 304 students participated in the event.
The charrette is the result of a cooperation between CCA and the schools of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, graphic design, environmental design and design art at the Universit de Montral, McGill, Universit du Qubec Montral, Concordia, Laval in Qubec City, Carleton in Ottawa, and Ryerson in Toronto. It is intended for university students, recent graduates, and stagiaires associated with various professional associations in Quebec.
Festival Palace focuses on the collective social experience of festivals — which hover between the permanent and the ephemeral — through an ongoing reflection on Montreal’s Quartier des spectacles. Taking into consideration the wide variety of festival types and their impact on urban life, students will conceive a Festival Palace, a permanent structure at the heart of these ephemeral encounters.
The exercise permits students in different schools within the same university as well as those from different universities to work together. Each year, as many as 70 teams of 3 to 5 people take part in the charrette, generating an abundance of ideas and an incredible amount of energy. The intensity of the work is a foretaste of professional life and allows students to contend, within the structured framework of this annual event, with the sort of pressure they will encounter in practice.
Details of the design problem were announced at the launch of the charrette at 7:00pm on Thursday, October 21. Images and additional information are available to students on the CCA website at www.cca.qc.ca/charrette/. All projects submitted will be posted on the website once the charrette exhibition has closed.
Charrettes originated over a century ago. In the 19th century, the cole des Beaux-Arts in Paris instituted competitions for architectural students, who had to produce ideas and designs within very tight deadlines. As the deadline for submission loomed, architects-in-the-making rushed out of their ateliers yelling for a handcart or wheelbarrow [charrette] to carry their plans. mile Zola vividly described the scene in his novel L’oeuvre: “This was the cart that gave the last night of work its name; and the instant it appeared a clamour broke out. The time was a quarter to nine; they had only a few minutes to get their plans to the Beaux-Arts; and now they rushed out with their cases, everyone elbowing everyone else, and the few who were trying to finish up some detail being shoved along by the others; in less than five minutes all the cases had been piled into the cart.” Used in this special sense, the word charrette has persisted to this day. Even in English we can say of students in the midst of such a competition that they are en charrette.