Dual-Purpose Design Meetings

The magic of the charrette occurs when the ideas begin to take shape on paper–before the eyes of the stakeholders.  Ideas are generated by the participants, quickly sketched up by the design team, then

Photo By Brian G. Becharas, Chairman, Camp Echo Facilities & Infrastructure Committee

Photo By Brian G. Becharas, Chairman, Camp Echo Facilities & Infrastructure Committee

explored further or set aside as better ideas emerge. Throughout the process, camp administrators and volunteers have the opportunity to see their ideas come to life on paper and understand how they will impact the existing and future conditions of the camp. Because of this direct involvement, the result of the design charrette is often the commitment of major donations to support implementation of the proposed improvements.

Endorsing The Process

Over 20 camp master plans have been developed over the last decade by YMCAs throughout the East Coast and Midwest regions, using the design charrette process. One such organization is the McGaw YMCA of Evanston, Ill., which developed a master plan for CampEcho in 2007. “The charrette process was perfect for our needs,” says Rob Grierson, Vice President of Resident Camping and Branch Executive Director. “The prep work we did with our staff and policy volunteers helped us to define and clarify the issues we were facing; the charrette itself allowed a number of key stakeholders to provide input and take ownership of the decisions made; and the master site plan and sketches produced afterwards have been invaluable for planning purposes and for our fundraising efforts. I highly recommend the process to other camps.” Several small projects identified in the master plan have already been implemented, and when the funding was in place for a new kybo to be built in the center of camp, Grierson held a “Kybo Charrette” in 2011 to pin down the final design and location of the building before completing the construction drawings.

A design consultant team capable of undertaking this process would typically be composed of planners with expertise in both site-planning (landscape architects), and facility design (architects) who can draw building and site-design ideas as they hear them, incorporating barrier-free access and building code requirements into each concept as it is developed. In addition, a designer skilled in three-dimensional rendering acts as the “interpreter” of the flat plans that few people can visualize, bringing the work alive.

A note of caution: computer-generated “walk-through” views have become common, and work well for many buildings. But the beauty of trees and the textures and materials most often used in camp facilities–timbers, logs, wood siding, and stone–don’t look natural unless drawn by hand. Since emotion and mood are a huge part of camp design, a skilled sketch-artist can make the difference between consensus and confusion.

The key to developing a consensus-based master plan at a camp is gathering the right people to attend the design charrette, and undertaking the right master-planning process. Finding potential donors, who love the camp, care about its future, and are willing to commit two or three days to be part of the process, is critically important. And once the right people are assembled, using a process that gives them the opportunity to be part of creating the master plan just might trigger donations before the next capital campaign even begins!

Sandy Bliesener, LLA, LEED AP is Principal/Landscape Architect with O’Boyle, Cowell, Blalock & Associates, Inc. in Kalamazoo, Mich. The landscape architecture firm has been in business since 1964. She can be reached via email at sbliesener@ocba.com.

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Related posts:

  1. Building for the Future
  2. The Master Plan
  3. Dream to Reality
  4. Playground Design With History In Mind
  5. Conceptual Steps

One comment on “Dual-Purpose Design Meetings

  1. L C Tudor on said:

    Please let me know about the requirements for bunk bed construction.

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