The Alberti Charrettes

Projects by past Alberti Program participants.

Posted by Liz Kramer December 9, 2020


The Alberti Program: Architecture for Young People, has long engaged young people across the St. Louis region in creative, hands-on learning about architecture and design. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, this meant creating projects that youth could complete at home. 

With support from The Divided City initiative, the Alberti Charrettes were a new pilot to engage WashU students in remote collaboration to design at-home content for fourth- through eighth-grade students. The charrettes included two Saturday workshops, led by graduate student coordinators Anna Friedrich (MArch20/MCM20) and Holly Gabelmann (MA21). Working in small teams, 15 WashU students began with the theme, Spaces of Energy, Spaces of Calm.

Over the course of the charrettes, students created and documented activities inspired by the theme. “Watching our volunteers develop their activity from an idea to a fully realized project was invigorating,” Gabelmann noted. “Each team took a different approach to the subject matter, and it was wonderful to see the dialogue that formed within each team and between teams.”

During the sessions, the volunteer participants shifted in and out of breakout rooms, and gathered feedback from the whole group and faculty reviewers. As one participant said, “It was very fast-paced…I actually enjoyed the pace at which we were going through ideas and working out how we would present [plans] to the critics.”

The charrette structure provided moments of connection for WashU students, many of whom have seen fewer classmates or are working from other parts of the country or globe this semester. One participant said, “I loved the mixture of our groups. Although I have barely started my journey here at WashU, I felt welcome and, in a way, inspired by my fellow team members.” 

The projects developed during the charrettes have been edited by Gabelmann and Friedrich, with additional support from Emily Coffman in the Office for Socially Engaged Practice. The result of their work is The Designer’s Notebook, which can be downloaded at home and used to guide participants through the activities, which include designing a treehouse that works in coordination with the environment, creating and using patterns in design, and making spaces that promote energy and calm. The full notebook, as well as individual activities, are available for download on the Alberti Program website

 “The process of refining the activities for at-home learning has been really fulfilling,” Friedrich said. “It’s been exciting to view the profession of architecture through the lens of a child learning about design for the first time. We wanted to combine practical architectural knowledge, like standards of drawing and scale, with open-ended prompts to encourage kids to see the opportunities for design in everyday life.”

The Alberti Charrettes for WashU students will run again at the start of the spring semester. To receive more information about volunteering, let us know through the Contact form


The Alberti Charrettes have been generously supported by The Divided City: A Mellon-Funded Urban Humanities Initiative.