Dr Isabelle Doucet - Research
Isabelle's research interests can, in very broad terms, be brought back to architecture's complex and multifarious engagement with the world, Such concern can be narrowed down into numerous sub-questions, such as regarding the status of practice or theory as a locus for criticality; regarding architecture's working as a discipline and profession and, consequently, architecture's interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary nature. Isabelle’s research searches for more complex accounts of architecture than those building on the separation and opposition of politics and aesthetics, everyday use and orchestrated space, bottom-up and top-down processes, tactics and strategies, software and hardware, critical (theory) and compliant (practice). In addition, Isabelle’s research aspires to study architecture’s interdisciplinary workings by reconciling the analytical approach of the social sciences with the creative, projective and design-based nature of architectural design.
Such disciplinary tensions and challenges have been addressed through empirical and conceptual research  within the context of architecture and urban culture in Brussels [period 1958-2005];  by researching architecture’s methodological devices for processing criticality, such as the 1970s “counter-project”;  by setting a “transdisciplinary” agenda for architecture; and  by revisiting the co-emergence of politics and aesthetics in the early days of architectural postmodernism
[see research section and publication list of the website].
Counter projects and Post 1968 Architectural Criticism at the Intersections of Social Critique Politics and Aesthetics
Counter-projects are a tool for architectural critique and resistance used by architects throughout the 1970s. Through drawing-manifestos, counter-projects criticised the existing state-of-affairs as well as formulating concrete, alternative proposals. By using architecture’s medium par excellence – drawing – they form instructive, fascinating critical devices that sit between theory and practice and between the analytical and projective. Counter-projects are largely associated with what would later become the historicist or traditionalist branch of post-modernism - the “Reconstruction of the European City” architects including Léon Krier and Maurice Culot and the “Critical Reconstruction” in Berlin. When this branch, arguably, underwent a so-called “aesthetic turn” and depoliticised once projects were gradually realised in practice, counter-projects seemingly lost their potential as a critical device for architecture. This research revisits counter-projects beyond the traditionalist realm and in three instructive geographical arenas: Brussels, London and Berlin.
Using the Archives d’Architecture Moderne (AAM) in Brussels, the research revisits the advocacy and activist roots of counter-projects, particularly those within the teaching of the French-speaking architecture school, La Cambre, under Maurice Culot and in close collaboration with the local urban activism of the Atelier de Recherche et d'Action Urbaines (ARAU).
The Architectural Association (AA) archives in London provide the basis to explore counter-projects emanating from education along diverse – and often conflicting – ideological and conceptual lines. Here the research focuses specifically on student projects created in the formative years of post-modernism: the late 1960s and early 1970s. The ideologically and methodologically diverse AA occupied a key position in the emerging global postmodern architecture culture and is central to reconstructing and revisiting these pivotal years. This period at the AA remains largely uncatalogued, partly because of the distributed nature of student projects of that era. In collaboration with the young, but prestigious, AA archives, this research hopes to facilitate a gradual resurfacing of contemporaneous student work. This will allow for a refined – though piecemeal – revisiting of these formative years of architectural postmodernism and, by extension, shed fresh light on recent reemerging questions related to architecture’s societal, critical and political potential. The “in-themaking” nature of the AA archives forms a unique catalyst and resource for reconstructing this recent history.
Finally, counter-projects developed in Berlin in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall will also be studied. Developed by local as much as
international architects, these are instructive for understanding the emergence of a global architecture in an era of belated neo-liberalisation.
From January 2004 until January 2008, Isabelle's research was supported by a Prospective Research For Brussels Grant , allocated by the Institute for the encouragement of Scientific Research and Innovation of Brussels (ISRIB, the Brussels Capital Region).
Her recent work is supported by the School of Environment and Development (SED) Research Stimulation Fund (2012) and Methods@Manchester (2012-2013).
- Architecture and agency
- Criticality-from-within: theory and practice as loci for criticality
- The practice of ideas, discourses, and ideologies
- Transdisciplinary research,
- Architecture and the everyday / the user
- Architectural post-modernism between politics and aesthetics