Since 2008, the Department of Architecture, Design & Urbanism has organized an annual interdisciplinary design charrette. Drexel students from all majors and departments can participate, be part of a design team, and contribute their expertise and unique point of view. The charrettes typically draw 50 to 100 students and require three to four days of intense, creative brainstorming and collaborative design.
Cameron Sinclair (co-founder of Architecture for Humanity) orchestrated the first charrette in 2008 and it considered health and educational facilities for the desperately poor in selected locations across the globe. In the succeeding years, faculty have organized the charrette, selected projects for disadvantaged neighborhoods in Philadelphia, and invited outside experts and faculty to assist the students and critique their final projects. In 2011 the charrette was coordinated with the professional designers that were hired to create the Drexel campus master plan. The 2017 charrette was led by the partners of Snohetta, and focused on sites located along the 34th street corridor linking Drexel to the Powelton and Mantua neighborhoods.
Faculty members observed that architecture and interiors students often assume leadership positions on their design teams while integrating the strengths and assets of other team members whose backgrounds can range from nursing to film to law. Through their design abilities, they become advisors and facilitators while respecting various viewpoints and approaches. They are able to negotiate the needs of different users or stakeholders and convince people without design backgrounds of the importance and the positive impact successful design can have on the environment. Many students comment in their post-charrette evaluations that their participation was one of the most enjoyable and empowering learning experiences of their college career.