↑ top

Irene Brisson

Current Student—Ph.D in Architecture

Irene Brisson

Specialization: Design Studies

Dissertation Committee: Joy Knoblauch, chair; Claire Zimmerman; Mark Schuller (external); Fatma Müge Goçek

Dissertation: Speaking, Gesturing, Drawing, Building: Relational Techniques of a Kreyòl Architecture

Research Interests:

Irene Brisson is a doctoral candidate invested in the study and implementation of more just and equitable design practices. Her dissertation research investigates practices of communication in the design of Haitian residential architecture through ethnographic fieldwork with contractors, architects, and residents. Considering speech, gesture, drawing, and building as inclusive categories of communication, Irene explores how they vary in complex relationships of class, education, language, race, and nationality to reproduce and challenge the status quo.

After the 2010 earthquake, Irene directed architectural design projects in southern Haiti as a co-founder of FAARM (Focus on Architecture, Research & Making), and as a consulting designer in Port-au-Prince. Other on-going research interests include the intersections of movement practices with architecture, site specific performance, and gendered and racial politics in public space, as in a collaborative mapping project presented at the Ghetto Biennale 2017 in Port-au-Prince. Irene completed an undergraduate degree in architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Masters of Architecture from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation & Planning. In addition to graduate teaching assistantships at Barnard & Columbia Colleges and the University of Michigan, she has taught architectural design at Parsons the New School for Design and Bowling Green State University.

Recent Awards:

  • Rackham Predoctoral Fellow, University of Michigan, 2019–2020
  • Institute of the Humanities, Graduate Student Fellow, University of Michigan, 2018–2019
  • US Department of Education Fulbright Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship, 2017– 2018
  • Haitian Studies Association, Emerging Scholar Award, 2017
  • Engaged Pedagogy Initiative Fellow, Center for Engaged Academic Learning, University of Michigan, Winter 2017
  • Taubman College Doctoral Student Award, University of Michigan, 2016

Recent Presentations:

  • “Architecture and Agency in Reconstruction in Southern Haiti” (accepted), Society of Architectural Historians, Seattle, WA. April 29 – May 3, 2020
  • “Damage and repair: the place of lakou in a changing climate,” Haitian Studies Association, Gainsville, FL. October 17–19, 2019
  • “Homes in rasanblaj: Assembling a historiography of residential architecture in twentieth century Ayiti,” Buell Center Dissertation Colloquium, Columbia University, New York, NY. May 3–4, 2019
  • “Listening to the Black Box: Failure in post-disaster house design,” Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA. March 28–30, 2019
  • Aid Houses & the Humanitarian Village: Post-disaster NGO housing design, Society for Applied Anthropology, Santa Fe NM. March 2017


Chun, Alice M. S, and Irene E. Brisson. Ground Rules for Humanitarian Design. West Sussex: Wiley, 2015.


Plan Your Future
Housing, Community, and Economic Development
Land Use and Environmental Planning
Physical Planning and Design
Transportation Planning
Global and Comparative Planning