Isabelle Doucet is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester where her research focuses on the relationship between politics, aesthetics, and social responsibility in architecture. She is particularly interested in the relationship between architecture and urban politics in the 1970s and the repercussions of architecture's "post-political" turn. She examines such questions through both conceptual-methodological inquiries and historical and contemporary cases.
Isabelle received a PhD in Architectural Theory from the Delft University of Technology in 2010. Before joining The University of Manchester she had taught in universities in Belgium, Italy, Germany, and The Netherlands. She is the author of The Practice Turn in Architecture: Brussels after 1968 (Routledge 2015). In addition to publishing journal articles and book chapters, she coedited (with Kenny Cupers) the special issue "Agency in Architecture" for Footprint Journal (2009) and (with Nel Janssens) Transdisciplinary Knowledge Production in Architecture and Urbanism (Springer, 2011). More recently, in 2016, she co-edited a special issue dedicated to Architecture and Contestation for Candide Journal for Architectural Knowledge.
Isabelle’s research interests are manifest through the following, inter-connected, research agendas
Social responsibility and Transdisciplinarity
Isabelle has published widely on critical engagement in architecture, social outreach in architectural pedagogy, and the status of theory and practice as loci for criticality. Inspired by pragmatist-relational perspectives her research proposes socially responsible accounts of architecture and the city that resist the separation of politics and aesthetics, and theory and practice. A key recent output is the research monograph The Practice Turn in Architecture: Brussels after 1968 (Routledge 2015). Through the empirical study of a series of critical actions and tools occurring in Brussels after 1968, the book offers a timely contribution to recent scholarship on the critical reappraisal of architectural debates from the 1960s through to the 1990s. The social responsibility agenda is also evident in co-editorships for Footprint Journal (issue on Agency, 2009), Candide Journal of Architectural Knowledge (two issues on Architecture and Contestation, 2016-2017), and a special issue she is currently co-editing for Architectural Theory Review, titled “Resist, Reclaim Speculate”. Isabelle contributed to the development of a ‘transdisciplinary’ agenda for architecture, articulating the relationship between theory and profession, notably through the co-edited volume Transdisciplinary Knowledge Production in Architecture and Urbanism (Springer 2011). Isabelle’s writings have also focused on social responsibility in architectural pedagogy, such as notably her recent papers in Candide Journal for Architectural Knowledge and the Journal of Educational Administration and History.
Counter-projects are drawing-manifesto’s serving as a tool for architectural critique. They emerged in the 1970s, initially in Brussels but subsequently gaining international relevance. Isabelle has published extensively on this fascinating critical tool. Papers were included in her book The Practice Turn in Architecture, in the edited volumes Use Matters: An Alternative History of Architecture (Routledge 2013) and The Other Architect (Canadian Centre for Architecture 2015) and in the journals Architectural Theory Review, and Oase Journal. Her research was also included in the Radical Pedagogies project, directed by Beatriz Colomina at Princeton University and exhibited at the 14th Biennale di Venezia and the 2014 Lisbon Architecture Triennial.
Counter-Cultural Architectures in Belgium
Isabelle’s current research is largely dedicated to the countercultural effort in Belgium in the 1960s and 1970s. Drawing from extensive archival research and interviews, this project analyses architectural works, debates and publication cultures in a country that, located at linguistic, cultural, and political crossroads, offers an ideal laboratory for revisiting the relationship between politics, resistance, and aesthetics under architectural post-modernisation. The project, started in 2015, is amongst others supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts (2016-2017) and by Visiting Fellowships at the Brussels Centre for Urban Studies (2015) and the Architecture Theory Criticism History Research Centre (ATCH), University of Queensland (2017). The project will result in a research monograph planned for 2019.
Resistance and the Anthropocene
Isabelle is currently expanding her research into social responsibility in architecture through the study of new forms of resistance as they emerge from the literature on the Anthropocene and the wider field of the Environmental Humanities. This research is conceptual, historical, and pedagogical in nature in that it confronts the conceptual study of radical forms of resistance with the historical revisiting of environmental architectures that exemplify such resistance. This research is integrated in Isabelle’s research-led teaching at The University of Manchester. In two editions (2016-2017) of the workshop Architectural Counter-Projects / Environmental Challenges master students combined historical case study analysis with conceptual reading and design experimentations.
Recent Publications (selection)
Doucet, I., The Practice Turn in Architecture. Brussels after 1968, Routledge 2015
Doucet, I. and Janssens, N. (eds.), Transdisciplinary Knowledge Production in Architecture and Urbanism. Towards Hybrid Modes of Inquiry (Berlin and Heidelberg: Springer, 2011).
Doucet, I., ‘Learning in the ‘Real’ World: encounters with radical architectures (1960s–1970s)’, Journal of Educational Administration and History, vol. 49, Nr 1: 2017: 7-21.
Doucet, I., ‘Architecture Wrestling the Social: The “Live” Project as a Site of Contestation’, Candide Journal for Architectural Knowledge, 10, 2016: 12-40.
Doucet, I. ‘Aesthetics between provocation and production: counter-projects.’ Oase Journal for Architecture, 97, 2016, pp. 91-98.
Doucet, I., ‘Architecture between Politics and Aesthetics. Peter Wilson’s “ambivalent criticality” at the 1970s Architectural Association’, Architectural Theory Review, issue 19.1, 2014, pp. 98-115.
Doucet, I. ‘Making a city with words. Understanding Brussels through its urban heroes and villains’, City, Culture, and Society, volume 3, issue 2, 2012, pp. 105-116.
Doucet, I., ‘ARAU (Atelier de recherche et d’action urbaines): counter-projects’ in: Giovanni, Borasi, The Other Architect. Spector Books and Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2015.
Doucet, I., ‘Counter-projects and the postmodern user’, in Use Matters. An Alternative History of Architecture, ed. by K. Cupers, Routledge, 2013, pp. 233-247.
Recently Awarded Research Grants and Fellowships
Research support grant, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago (2016-2017)
Visiting Fellow, Architecture Theory Criticism History Research Centre, University of Queensland, Australia (2017)
Social Responsibility in the Curriculum Grant, University of Manchester (2016-2017)
Conference Support Grant, Jean Monnet Centre for Excellence (2016-2017)
Visiting Fellow, Brussels Centre for Urban Studies, Belgium (2015)