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BRAVE / PRAXIS: 2013 RDA Design Charrette

2013 RDA Design Charrette

9 September 2013, 19:48

A few weeks ago, we took on yet another challenge- the 2013 Rice Design Alliance Design Charrette… and we won!

For those less familiar, the RDA Design Charrette is a local annual competition that invites architects and non-architects (individuals, designers, etc) in teams of up to five to participate in an 8 hour design charrette. The challenges over the years have involved a variety of things such as parks, bridges, and even the Galveston Seawall.

This year, the focus was on the campus of the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) located in the Museum District on Main Street. HCCC is a nonprofit arts organization whose mission is to “advance education about the production, process, and history of craft”. Participants were asked to come up solutions on how to better integrate the campus, and increase the building’s visibility on Main Street.

Prior to the final deadline for submitting applications to participate, an informative tour of the site was given. This was quite interesting as it provided an opportunity for everyone to have a firsthand look at the facility, and meet a staff member of HCCC as well as RDA’s Assistant Director Mary Beth Woiccak. Also, we were able to ask questions directly about what some of the needs or concerns were. This was wonderful. Essentially, after attending the tour, we made our decision to participate this year.

The BRAVE / ARCHITECTURE team consisted of Peter Ho, Melvalean McLemore, Diana Ngo, and summer intern Octavie Berendschot. Peter participated in previous RDA charrettes with other members of the office, while this was a first for the remaining team members. Peter brought the event to our attention, as it is always encouraged for everyone to experience a RDA charrette at least once, and we decided to partake.

The event took place at Rice University’s School of Architecture at 8 am on a Saturday morning, and lasted until 4pm. We were provided breakfast, lunch, beverages, and a very thorough program explaining the design challenges and judging criteria. Time flew by as we read through and assessed the program, brainstormed, and refined our idea. In all honesty, I would say it was around noon before we even broke into subgroups to start producing the drawings we would eventually include in the final presentation.

By that time we split up, knew we only had about 4 hours remaining, but we pushed through keeping in mind always the various matters HCCC presented to us. This led us constantly having to deal with the ongoing challenge of keeping up a steady production of diagrams and drawings while constantly wanting to improve the design. We maintained focused.

Before we knew it, time was up. We were given a number to anonymously identify our work in the hallway. There were a total of ten teams, and we were team 5. We didn’t know what to expect, but we liked our idea. Our solution was simple: to soften the building edge on Main Street by pushing back the entry and creating a large lighted cantilever, then switch the parking and garden to break up the campus’ quadrants and create a more cohesive flow. After pinning up we left not knowing if we had been able to produce enough work to convey our idea adequately. We were exhausted, but still very glad that we had participated.

The work was judged the evening of the following Monday during a reception/ award ceremony. The team of jurors consisted of HCCC’s neighbor Christine West, Executive Director of Lawndale Art Center; Ernesto Maldonado, principal of Glassman Shoemake Maldonado and HCCC board member; Sheryl Kolasinski, Deputy Director/Chief Operating Officer of the Menil Collection; and Julie Farr, Executive Director of the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. The hallway was packed with people waiting to hear the results. Three awards were given out Best Big Idea, Best Garden Design, and Best Overall design for which we took home the trophy.

Overall we had a wonderful overall experience and it was a great exercise on team work. We’re looking forward to next year’s competition!