Rixt Woudstra


Rixt Woudstra is a Ph.D. Candidate in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Art and Architecture program at MIT, and a 2019-2020 Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellow at the American Council of Learned Societies. Her dissertation, titled “Planning the ‘Multiracial’ City: Architecture, Decolonization, and the Design of Stability in British Africa (1945-1957),” explores the British Colonial Office’s postwar program to construct modern state-sponsored housing estates during the end of colonial rule. Through site-specific and archival research in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, this project exposes how architects attempted to recast colonialism as a benevolent, modernizing force, involved in social welfare initiatives. Focusing on the work of several relatively unknown British architects, such as Leonard Thornton-White, Helga Richards and Alfred Alcock, this dissertation examines the entanglements between design, social welfare, and subjugation. 

She is the recipient of fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, Harvard University’s Center for European Studies, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, the MIT-Africa Initiative, and the MIT Center for International Studies. In 2018, her dissertation research received a Citation of Special Recognition for the Carter Manny Award from the Graham Foundation, which honors innovative research in architectural history. Her work has appeared in several publications, including Architectural Histories, Thresholds, and Architecture and Action, and is forthcoming in the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Women in Architecture. In 2019, she was selected to participate in the Canadian Center for Architecture’s Mellon Seminar “Centring Africa: Postcolonial Perspectives on Architecture” at the University of Addis Ababa. She has taught at MIT’s Department of Architecture and lectured at various institutions, including the University of Cambridge, Delft University of Technology, and the Cooper Hewitt Museum. She is the co-founder of Storytelling Space, an interdisciplinary research practice based at MIT, which has organized several workshops and lectures around the theme of narrativity and design.

Before coming to MIT, she worked on exhibitions and publications at the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam and Studio Lukas Feireiss in Berlin. She was a project researcher for “OfficeUS,” the U.S. Pavilion of the Venice Biennial in 2014, and collaborated on an installation with Design Earth for the Oslo Architecture Triennale in 2016. More recently, she co-organized the exhibition “Kampala Modern” at Makerere University in Kampala with Doreen Adengo, as part of the show “African Modernism: The Architecture of Independence,” curated by Manuel Herz. She is also an assistant editor for the edited volume Common Ground: The Architecture of Co-Existence, with Azra Aksamija, for the Aga Khan Award of Architecture, forthcoming in May 2020. She holds a B.A. and a Masters of Art in Art and Architectural History from the University of Amsterdam.