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Charrette. Defined as “a public meeting or workshop devoted to a concerted effort to solve a problem or plan the design of something.” The transition from undergraduate to postgraduate involved the substitution of freshers week for charrette week. The architecture building was buzzing, full of every design student in the school ready to share their creativity with one another.

Give a Damn! The name initially interested me – give a damn about what? There is certainly a lot about the built environment that I ‘give a damn’ about. With the overall charrette theme of the High Street, my charrette group aimed at understanding the social fabric of the high street. How did people interact with one another? What kind of characters could you find on the high street, and how did they act? In small groups, we went to Northumberland Street to find out for ourselves. Northumberland Street contains everything you’d expect to find on a busy high street – major retail chains, food and drink to go, fast food chains and bank branches. The wide pedestrianised street was full of people moving in every direction possible. Some casually strolling and looking around, others briskly walking with purpose, as if they had somewhere to be. There were buskers stationed outside shops, sat down singing songs and playing instruments. People of all ages sat around, some in big groups, some on their own. Others were sat enjoying al fresco dining. Isn’t it weird how we can observe people and their actions in public spaces, but do not know anything deeper about the person themselves?

As I was walking down Northumberland Street I noticed that people generally kept to themselves – interaction only really occurred between people who were out together, rather than between strangers. The only form of interaction between strangers were when people who were handing out flyers approached pedestrians, which was often responded to with a “no thank you”. Generally, I felt that whilst there was a sense of togetherness that came from how busy the high street was, there was still a feeling of isolation as you walked around at your own pace, with your own purpose. If you were by yourself, you were alone. Although, I quite enjoyed that.

Back at university, we shared our thoughts and experiences. Perception and experience between my group was generally similar, although some people did observe slightly different activity than I did. Perhaps this was because I wandered off from the group for a while to see how people interacted with someone who was walking through the high street by themselves. Overall, I felt that interaction between people on the high streets depends heavily on the people you walk around the high street with. People tend to mind their own business, unless they are trying to advertise something to you.

In terms of the charrette week as a whole, I did expect the project to be urban design based, as it involved every design-related student in the school. I felt like it would have been a lot more beneficial if we had a specific project to design, so that we could utilise our creativity and learn design skills from one another. Nevertheless it was pleasant to see new faces and observe high street life.


References:

Lexico (2019) Definition of CharetteAvailable at: https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/charrette. [Accessed on: 29/10/19].

School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Tel: 0191 208 6509

Email: nicola.rutherford@ncl.ac.uk


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