20/20 Visions Foreword by Robert Ivy

By 29/06/2018 No Comments

Written by: for 20/20 Visions

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Regional Urban Design Action Team  (R/UDAT) model has played a hugely important role in the development of collaborative planning and placemaking. Established over 50 years ago as a response to the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, R/UDATs have brought the skill of architects and other practitioners into hundreds of cities, towns and neighbourhoods across the USA to co-design visions with local communities.  Below, Robert Ivy sets out the emergence of the charrette methodology in the US and the early R/UDATs. He acknowledges the emergence of new technologies in architecture and planning today but reminds us that the fundamental purpose of Charrettes remains unchanged.


In a digitally frenetic time, when architectural technology has unleashed a plethora of unanticipated formal solutions to planning, design and construction, one humanely based architectural movement tied to democratic principles has thrived. Known by the acronym R/UDAT (Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team) this lauded programme has persisted for fifty years and spawned participatory charrette methodologies that flourish today – in North America and the UK, and around the world.

The relevance of democratic design is growing in this second decade of the twenty-first century. At a time in which societies all over the world are moving to cities at an unrelenting pace, and for the first time in human history, more of us live in cities than do not, the charrette model offers an optimistic perspective and an invaluable hands-on tool for city building.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is proud to have been associated with the development of charrettes through the R/UDAT programme, and we applaud the work illustrated in this book, which celebrates real results through case studies that demonstrate the diversity and richness of successful charrette methods, at a time when the world needs them more than ever.

Created in 1967 by AIA member Jules Gregory FAIA, and first held in Rapid City, South Dakota, the R/UDAT grew up and evolved in the civil rights era. Characteristic of their gestation in the 1960s, charrettes employ multidisciplinary teams of professionals to work with communities on a plan for urban change using the compressed timeframe. Today, after fifty years, over 150 R/UDATs have been organised by the AIA throughout North America, and the charrette methodology has been accepted and translated around the world.

Neither size nor scale limit the application of charrettes. Small towns and neighbourhoods, struggling economically, have seen light and hope, as have larger cities devastated by climatic events. In the US, universities, municipalities, state and federal agencies have adapted R/UDATs, and mayors have been among their most fervent admirers.

Millions of people today enjoy the results of charrette processes worldwide, and they have influenced professional practice as well. In the US, for example, the revitalisation of Portland’s successful Pearl District came about through a R/UDAT, as did the Santa Fe Railyard redevelopment, and the renaissance of tornado-hit East Nashville, to name a few.

During the past fifty years, technological innovation has exploded. We all look to see how new tools will affect future planning. The more humble tools that spurred the earliest convocations, the ubiquitous pens and pads and tape, have been joined by architectural software and communication tools that enable visualisation, a way of seeing in three or four dimensions, or that allow collaboration to happen in easier, more seamless ways.

While the tools have changed, their fundamental purpose has not. The convening of citizens through charrettes – enlightened, purposeful and committed  to design in its highest sense – offers hope for cities, towns and neighbourhoods struggling to find new models. Its democratic message explicitly promises us all that collective human intervention can be directed to positive ends.


Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Institute of Architects (AIA)

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