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Irene Brisson

Current Student—Ph.D in Architecture

Irene Brisson

Specialization: Design Studies
Dissertation Committee: Joy Knoblauch, chair; Claire Zimmerman, architecture; Mark Schuller, (external) anthropology; Fatma Müge Goçek, sociology
Dissertation Working Title: 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 equitable design processes whose dissertation research investigates communicative practices used in the tacit and explicit design of Haitian residential architecture. Her ethnographic fieldwork is focused on three significant producers of Haitian houses: contractors/bosmason, architects, and non-governmental organizations. 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 a consulting designer in Port-au-Prince. This post-disaster work informed the collaborative editing of Ground Rules for Humanitarian Design. Other on-going research interests include the intersections of movement practices with architecture, site specific performance, meaning-making and gesture, and gender and racial politics in public space, most recently explored in a community mapping project presented at the Ghetto Biennale 2017 in Port-au-Prince. Irene holds a S.B. in architecture from 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:

  • Graduate Student Fellow, Institute of the Humanities, 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
  • Institute for Social Change Fellow, Rackham Graduate School, 2015
  • Alfred A. Taubman Scholar, University of Michigan, 2014 – 2015

Recent Presentations:

  • Maps of tè glise. Ghetto Biennale, Port-au-Prince. December 2017.
  • Lojik blòk, lojik lakou nan pwojè imanite nan Léogâne/Block logic, Lakou logic: A Humanitarian settlement in Léogâne. Haitian Studies Association, New Orleans LA. November 2017.
  • Aid Houses & the Humanitarian Village: Post-disaster NGO housing design, Society for Applied Anthropology, Santa Fe NM. March 2017.
  • Neocolonial Form in a Postcolonial Landscape, Caribbean Studies Association, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. June 2016.
  • Critical Spaces of Exception, P+ARG Graduate Student Conference: Rule & Form: Confronting the Spatial Transactions and Logistics of Capital, University of Michigan. February 2016


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