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What the Charrette?

A Comic’s View of Recent High-Density Housing Design Talks


It’s 9 a.m. on a Saturday, and I’m standing in a sea of architects and designers at the Santa Barbara Junior High School gym for a “design charrette” hosted by the city’s housing department and local American Institute of Architects chapter. If you’ve never had quality time with architects, and I’ve had way too much of that in my lifetime (my sister and her boyfriend: obsessed with each other, and then designing buildings), you’ll need to get up-to-speed with a few things about architects.

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As much as I like poking fun at design geeks drafting on a Saturday afternoon, these do-gooder architects are looking to tackle what the city has been discussing for five years: the General Plan for the city’s future. The goal of the charrette is to brainstorm what shape and character high-density housing might take in Santa Barbara, without sacrificing elements of good design, neighborhood aesthetics, and environmental impact. Designers and members of the community will have a chance to discuss the economic reality of the proposed models and potential challenges in the undertaking.

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If you’re interested in the direction of housing development in S.B., part two of the architectural saga will be this Saturday, July 23, at the SBJHS gym, 721 East Cota Street. Designers will refine their proposals before a presentation/critique at 11:30 a.m. Their findings will be presented to City Council in early August.

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