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A Group Effort

Duda|Paine Architects revamped the master plan for improvements at Appalachian State University with the help of a design charrette comprised of community members.

The design charrettes that took place to help evaluate the Appalachian State University master plan allowed students, school staff, and community members to work together and truly get involved with the process that Duda|Paine started. The architectural firm took a step back and gave the reins to those who would be directly affected by the redesign.
07/01/2017 By Jenna Lippin

The charrette process is best for identifying these important elements, Duda noted. Through that phase of “discovery,” participants present concerns that are more pragmatic: Where can I park my car? How far will I have to walk to my usual workspace? Then there are those inquiries that will be “almost philosophical”: How can we bring arts and sciences together in one campus? “The questions can be quite broad,” he said. “We love how, with the [approach] we’ve created for the charrette, we can step out of the way. We are leading the process, but we can let stakeholders have the conversation.”
Dude|Paine divides its charrette process into three parts:

1. A listening session. “No images, no drawings, and no artifacts in front of participants,” Duda said. “We take notes on what everyone has to say: concerns, hopes, dreams, ideas. Then we make that ‘piece of evidence’ available to everybody.”

2. Invite delegates or stakeholders. People like department chairpersons, administrators, student reps—the ambassadors of the campus in all different categories are welcomed to the table to have a discussion about their wants and needs.

3. The public charrette. In this stage of the process, community members are invited to join the charrette, which includes mayors, delegates, retailers who may be neighbors to the university, and others. “We love to think about how the charrette process can lead to a master plan that can be a bridging element in that it [connects] ‘the town and the gown,’ essentially the campus and the surrounding city,” Duda said. “This approach can also be a bridging element between different departments on campus. It can also be, especially in this particular case, a literal bridge between topographic changes. The Appalachian campus is very hilly, with many barriers that are physical in terms of connecting different parts of [the landscape]. One of the students told me the biggest issue for him on campus—and the reason he had trouble getting places on time—was having to climb mountains to get around.”

Leading up to the public charrette, Duda|Paine made sure it gave ample notice of when the gathering would be held and what the process would entail. The firm wanted to ensure it offered the opportunity to get involved to all parties who may be interested.  “We [confirmed] Appalachian sent out invitations, published and posted them, and sent an email blast,” said Lindsey Trogdon, a Duda|Paine associate who has been heavily involved with the Appalachian project. “We were really trying to get the word out. We were impressed by the amount of people who showed up. It was great to have them there. They have a different kind of ‘outside-looking-in’ viewpoint. That vantage point and working with university stakeholders was really enriching overall.”

Duda added, “‘Transparency’ is the word I would use. We wanted this process to be transparent and public. All notes from the listening sessions were made public. No surprises were given.”

The Appalachian State Board of Trustees adopted the final master plan created by Duda|Paine in March 2017. The team has been working on advanced planning concepts for an athletic mixed-use village on campus, and is currently in the process of conceptualizing a main gateway (making the entrance to campus clear). “By the year 2025, if [Appalachian State] can get most of [the master plan] in place, they will have succeeded,”

Duda concluded. “Most master plans are living documents, which means that we have to build in enough flexibility to implement parts and pieces, and maybe even change some things. But the core idea of the master plan is still the same.”

Photography + Renderings courtesy of Duda|Paine Architects

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