What makes a city? What makes architecture? And, what is to be included in the discussions of architecture and the city? Attempting to answer such ambitious questions, this book starts from a city’s specificity and complexity. In response to recent debates in architectural theory around the agency and locus of critical action, this book tests the potential of criticality through-practice. Rather than through conceptual and ideological categorisations, it studies how architecture and criticality work within specific circumstances. Brussels, a complex city with a turbulent architectural and urban past, forms a compelling case for examining the tensions between urban politics, architectural imaginations, society’s needs and desires, and the city’s history and fabric. Inspired by pragmatist-relational philosophies, this book tests the potential of criticality through-practice. It studies a series of critical actions and tools, which occurred in Brussels’ architectural and urban culture after 1968. Weaved together, Brussels architectural production emerges from a variety of actors, including architects, urban policy makers, activists, social workers, and citizens, but also architectural movements and ideologies, urban renewal programs, urban traumas, plans and projects, and mundane everyday practices and constructions. This book contributes to the study of Brussels and offers a timely contribution to recent scholarship on the critical reappraisal of architectural debates from the 1960s through to the 1990s. In addition, by showing how pragmatist-relational philosophies can be made relevant for architectural theory, the book opens hopeful potentials for how architectural theory can better contribute to the formulation of a critical agenda for architecture.
Isabelle Doucet is a lecturer at the University of Manchester, Manchester Architecture Research Centre. She is the co-editor of Transdisciplinary Knowledge Production in Architecture and Urbanism (Springer, 2011).
'This book is three things in one: it is an important book about recent urban developments in Brussels, it offers an insightful reflection on the issue of criticality in architecture, and it contains an exciting exploration of innovative methods that investigate how architecture, the city and its inhabitants intertwine. It is amazing in its multilayeredness and richness - a must-read for anyone interested in either Brussels, criticality or methodology, a real gem for those who hold all three of these topics dear.' Hilde Heynen, University of Leuven, Belgium
‘Why are some books in architecture and theory such a drag to read, whilst others are so fluent, such a pleasure to read? Part of the answer is that the author has to be well informed about recent critical debates and at the same time close to their ‘object’, the daily and often mundane practices that make architecture and the city. This is especially true for Isabelle Doucet’s, The Practice Turn in Architecture: Brussels after 1968. Like many of her generation, Doucet is critical of the authority allocated to architectural theory, which is where her "practice turn" comes in, informed by Isabelle Stengers, but also the socio-technological and economic changes that affected the profession. Doucet’s book is a critical exploration through practice, of concrete instances of engagement, drawing upon cases taken from Brussels. No doubt belonging to the ‘older’ generation of critical thinkers in architecture, I can only produce a very respectful nod to Doucet: her work is critical, outstanding, accessible, and a pleasure to read.’ Arie Graafland, Professor Emeritus, Department of Architecture, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
'Isabelle Doucet calls to include in architectural thinking also those actors that are often considered as trivial because they are not professional, not productive, or small. Whilst one may be sceptical as to whether such approach is suitable for realising the 21st Century metropolis, it remains important to highlight these slow and invisible processes and the book succeeds in exposing their indirect and long-term impact on the Brussels complexity.' Charlotte Lheureux in: A+ Architecture in Belgium