Carter Manny Award

  • Speaking, Gesturing, Drawing, Building: Relational Techniques of a Kreyòl Architecture
    Irene Brisson

An array of columns advertise casting molds available for rent, Léogâne, Haiti, 2018. Photo: Irene Brisson.

Irene Brisson, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, is the recipient of the 2019–20 Carter Manny Writing Award.

The vernacular and creole languages—linguistic and architectural—used to produce the majority of the global built environment continue to be delegitimized as ways of knowing, building, and inhabiting by an architectural discipline centered in the global North. This dissertation recuperates these voices using ethnographic and archival research to study how contractors, architects, and other house builders communicate design ideas within and across social hierarchies. The analysis of quotidian building practices reveals a more fluid model of relational and situated design practices than those codified by the discipline of architecture, although misalignments between exigencies and policies continue to contribute to a broadly vulnerable built environment. Case studies in Léogâne and Port-au-Prince, Haiti inform the theorization of Kreyòl architecture as a syncretic and embodied practice of home building which negotiates the transnational circulation of people, technologies, images, and materials.

Irene Brisson is an architectural scholar, designer, and educator committed to the study and implementation of equitable design practices. Their work draws on the disciplines and methods of architecture, ethnography, and Haitian studies to center marginalized designers of the African diaspora in radically inclusive narratives of spatial practice. As a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan, Brisson studies design communication in residential architecture in western Haiti. This research has been supported by the Fulbright-Hays Program and predoctoral fellowships from the University of Michigan’s Institute for the Humanities and Rackham Graduate School. Brisson was a recipient of the 2017 Emerging Scholar Award from the Haitian Studies Association and earned a BS at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MArch at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.