*Attention: PhD and Doctoral students of Architecture...we need your input!*

Hello everyone....

Two of my classmates and myself are doing some research on doctoral programs in Architecture in North America. We have compiled what we think is a comprehensive list of universities that offer either PhD in Architecture or D.Des. (Doctor of Design) degrees*; the results of this research will likely be included in a publication on the subject.

With this in mind, I started this thread in order to pose some general questions to the PhD crowd, and to help kick start our research a little bit. If you have participated in, graduated from, or applied to any of these Doctoral programs and wouldn't mind sharing a little (or a lot) about your impressions of the program, we would greatly appreciate it! I've perused many of the previously posted PhD topics but most of them were specific questions about specific programs, and I'd like to keep this discussion a bit more open-ended.

Thanks in advance, and certainly do let me know if you have any questions.

*Here is the list of Schools that we are working with:
Arizona State University
Carnegie-Mellon University
Columbia (?)
Cornell University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Harvard University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
McGill University
North Carolina State University
Princeton University
Rice University
Texas A&M
Texas Tech University
Universite de Montreal
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Los Angeles
University of Colorado
University of Florida
University of Hawaii
University of Illinois
University of Kansas
University of Michigan
University of Nebraska
University of Oregon
University of Pennsylvania
University of Southern California
University of Texas, Austin
University of Virginia
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Virginia Polytechnic University

Apr 9, 08 2:49 am
vado retro

doctor of design. thats funny...

Apr 9, 08 8:36 am  · 

hi emily... i put together a similar comprehensive list that included the different programs specialties and other various information... i'll try locating that file and email it to you if i can find it...

don't have time to write more stuff right now... i'll try later...

Apr 9, 08 8:49 am  · 
brian buchalski

isn't "doctor of design" one of the new show on the homes&food network?

Apr 9, 08 9:26 am  · 

last year i applied and was accepted to a PhD in Building Performance and Diagnostics at Carnegie-Mellon last year. essentially i would have earned a post-pro m.arch in the process and directly feed into the phd program (just like most science programs). i went and met with the director of the architecture program, who at the time was Volker Hartkopf.

i also applied and was accepted to the PhD program in Environmental Design at Virginia Tech. same deal- post-pro m.arch is earned in the process while working on a PhD thesis. the specific VT program i applied to was brand new for the 07-08 year (there are other PhD programs at the school). that particular program would have been at the Blacksburg campus only. perhaps this has changed now... i am not sure.

i decided i couldnt be in school that long (it was an estimated 3-5years). there are other typical requirements: many schools require you to become fluent in at least one other language and some schools require you publish your thesis in a peer-reviewed journal. (i personally think that is a fantastic idea for both M.Arch and PhD programs) i decided to go to UVa's post-pro m.arch 1yr program. UVa ONLY has a PhD in Architectural History- perhaps this will change in the future.

if you want info you can email me at

Apr 9, 08 9:58 am  · 

hi emily, what does the question mark in columbia mean? they do have a ph.d. program. it was run by kenneth frampton until recently and now reinhol martin is in charge i believe.

Apr 9, 08 1:51 pm  · 

Hi aml! The question mark came from the file that I was given. I'm not sure why it's there actually. Good to know that they actually have one though :o)

Thanks +i! That is very helpful and good to know. I am VERY interested in finding out precisely what all of these PhD degrees are for specifically, i.e., UVa's PhD is only in Architectural History.

Anyone else....?

Apr 9, 08 1:57 pm  · 

[reinholDDDDD martin. oops.]

Apr 9, 08 2:38 pm  · 

most of this info is available on their websites.

Apr 9, 08 2:53 pm  · 
vado retro

:P hi aml!!!

Apr 9, 08 3:11 pm  · 

Yeah +i, I'm sure it is available on the web sites but I'm interested in getting perspectives from people on why they chose which program, perceptions of the programs, etc. Your blurb was a bonus, so thanks again. ;o)

Apr 9, 08 4:46 pm  · 

hi vado!! : Þ

emily, i'm going to let some *actual* ph.d. students answer first- although i'm still giddy with my acceptance, i feel i'm technically not a ph.d. student yet...

Apr 9, 08 6:01 pm  · 

This won't help your particular quest, Emily, but may shed some light.

I'm an architect who did a PhD in urban planning. There were several other architects in the program, along with policy folks, economists, conmunity development people, and engineers. (It's a broad program allowing a lot of flexibility and several areas of concentration, obviously.) My advisor there did his PhD in architectural history. I studied the history of planning and urban development.

My point is that an architecture background provides useful training in ways to understand the built environment, and some of the processes going into its creation and change. This kind of further research and analytical work at the doctoral level may or may not take place in an architecture program.

Apr 9, 08 6:02 pm  · 

...sorry, I had to run off.

Anyway, I offer the above post to illustrate that architecture, broadly defined, can be studied in other programs.

As for your list, I can't comment from experience. I do know that UCLA, whittled its list of PhD sub-fields down from six to two a few years back, now focusing chiefly on history/theory and technology.

Apr 9, 08 6:50 pm  · 

emily, unfortunately i haven't been able to locate the file that i was talking about... if i happen to run across it i'll forward it along...

like aml, i'm not yet an official phd student... i'll start at UPenn in september...

to echo what citizen said above people with architecture backgrounds can pursue phd's in a variety of fields... i'm sure that you've seen the other phd related threads... but as an example, smokety mc smoke smoke considered pursuing his studies in an art history context... and of course javier arbona is doing his in a geography department... for me, i'll be relying heavily on UPenn's landscape and city planning departments...

at UPenn, the degree is a "phd in architecture"... that being said, the "graduate group" faculty includes people from architecture, landscape architecture, art history, and city planning... they don't really seem to have the clearly delineated fields of specialization that some other schools have (i.e. history/theory/criticism, building tech, design computing, etc.)...

for me (and probably all phd'ers for that matter), the most important thing was finding a school with a faculty and pedagogy that matched my interests... my main research interests include sustainable urbanism and infrastructure, public spaces (particularly in suburban areas), and the relationship between nature, landscape, and urban form... given that a lot of my interests are landscape-centric, UPenn and Harvard quickly rose to the top of my list... Princeton was also at the top because of their "center for architecture, urbanism and infrastructure"... other schools that i considered were Michigan, Georgia Tech, IIT, and Washington...

University of Washington could be an interesting case study... they are somewhat unusual in that they have two phd programs... the "college-wide phd in the built environment" has three areas of specialization: 1) sustainable systems and prototypes, 2) computational design and research, 3) history, theory and representation studies... then they also have the "interdisciplinary phd program in urban design and planning"... i found this dichotomy to be a little strange and never really grasped the difference between the two programs...

and i don't want to get into an ivy vs. non-ivy debate and this might just be my own perception, but one thing that i started to notice when researching all of the different programs was that the top programs seemed to be broader in their scope... while the less prestigious programs tended to focus down on one or two niche markets... for example, university of wisconsin-milwaukee seemed to focus heavily on environmental behavior stuff like elder care, and elder housing...

anyways, that's all for now... feel free to email me any questions...

Apr 10, 08 12:07 am  · 

Thanks citizen and architphil, I really appreciate it.

architphil, congrats on your acceptance to and of UPenn, I think I must have missed that. Just to clarify, did you say that you considered IIT for a PhD? Or was it MIT? Because I don't think I heard that IIT had a PhD program....but I haven't checked....Also thanks for your observations. They are duly noted!

I don't want to annoy everyone with this thread topic but I will bump it every now and again, just to make sure there's no one that I missed.

Apr 10, 08 12:49 am  · 

yes, it was IIT in chicago... the thing that caught my eye at IIT was their new international center for sustainable new cities... i happened to be in chicago for business, so i spent a little bit of time at the school and met with the director of the new cities program... it's just getting off the ground and sounds like they may start doing some interesting work... but i decided that it wasn't the place for me and ended up not applying there...

Apr 10, 08 8:18 am  · 

smart move, phil!

Apr 10, 08 11:07 am  · 

WOW! Thanks architphil. That looks like a really interesting program. I guess we'll add that to our list :o)

Apr 10, 08 11:48 pm  · 

<shameless bump>

Just making sure there are no doctoral students we've missed!

Carry on.


Apr 15, 08 2:35 am  · 

I am not a doctoral student yet, but i am looking at some programs.

Although you said North America i haven't seen any Canadian schools mentioned.

One school i am looking at with quite interest (for a variety of political and family reasons) is The University of Calgary in Alberta, CA.
They have a MA or PhD degree track in Environmental Design, ie; a DDes....

Just as an FYI.

Apr 15, 08 8:19 am  · 
Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke

Okay ... bait taken .... I am currently finishing my first year in the Ph.D program at Princeton University. Interestingly, if you look at the history of this program, and MIT's as well, you will notice that people call the degree different things. I think this has something to do with the operational life of the degree. In other words, if a program is supposed to outlive its founders, then it has to either recalibrate itself (or at least give a semblance of this recalibration via a name change). Thus, I have seen graduates from my program label it as "Ph.D in Architecture", or "Ph.D in History and Theory of Architecture", or "Ph.D in History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture", or any permutation/combination thereof. Our website calls it "Doctoral Program in Architecture", yet it is program administered by Princeton's Graduate School .... hence it is an advanced degree, a "Ph.D" by any other name.

That being said, I really love the flexibility and (inter)disciplinariness associated with this type of research. My program is not a design program. It's not like a D.Arch or a Computational Design Ph.D. In other words, our charge is to theorize how architecture operates in the world. This is, of course, a general description ... others may not necessarily subscribe to my own view about it. Some even may like to compare this approach to something undertaken in a comparative literature or cultural history program. I guess this is true, in some cases. There are others, for example, that bring their previous backgrounds in engineering and urban planning to bear. I use my previous training in history and law as foundation work for my research ... I had no idea that I would do so. But I also view my research as heavily reliant on other fields, such as history of science/technology, and to a certain extent, art history.

The Ph.D in Architecture, as I know and experience it, is a curious and almost ineffable thing. But this is why I enjoy it so much.

Apr 15, 08 9:10 am  · 

nam, McGill is on our original list, as is the Universite de Montreal.

Thanks for stopping by, Smokety. I appreciate your perspective.

Apr 15, 08 4:08 pm  · 

An important point here (embedded in posts made by some of our colleagues above, but worth highlighting), is that the PhD is nothing close to a simple extension of the MArch. Though the subject matter is similar (but not even this is identical), the process, the output, the audience, and the intent of the two enterprises--architectural scholarship and architectural design-- are quite different. A person can do both, and even inform one with the other, but still these are separate undertakings.

This point is probably obvious, but I've known folks who loved studio work in masters programs so much that they wanted to continue it after graduation, in the form of a doctorate. To them I always suggest a second masters, in landscape architecture or urban design.

Apr 15, 08 5:02 pm  · 

I should clarify that there is, thankfully, meaningful overlap between architectural scholarship and design/practice. The differences I described above have to do with the training and education necessary for each of the two enterprises.

Apr 15, 08 6:26 pm  · 

Woops! I still am learning how to read?

Also, Citizen. I completely agree. Even from the perspective of my previous graduate studies. A MA while difficult does not extend that far beyond the capabilities of a dedicated over achieving undergraduate. However, Doctoral level work is so much focused on personalized research where the work is more self generated. Compared to the masters level where you (and I was) are taking more introductory theory, pedagogy and practice (of your particular professions craft).

Apr 15, 08 8:45 pm  · 

i'm thinking that it will take me a little bit of time to get used to the whole scholarship vs. design thing... when i start the phd program this fall it will be the first time in six years of architectural education that i won't be taking a studio... it's going to be weird to not have that sort of camaraderie and atmosphere...

Apr 15, 08 10:21 pm  · 


Don't sweat it, you'll do fine. Once you realize that you're being trained for a different job altogether, it comes much easier. (This doesn't mean saying goodbye to design work, necessarily, but merely adding another skill set.)

Research, writing, teaching/pedagogy... it's a brave new world.

Also, and to my surpise, I found over time that the research and writing enterprise can satisfy my creative/design impulses just like physical design does in other ways.

Have fun!

Apr 16, 08 11:22 am  · 

Add Clemson to the list. The program is five or six years old. It is called Planning, Design and the Built Environment.

I'm not sure about the other program areas, but with respect to architecture and technology, active research is geared more toward integration of technology (especially robotics) and human factors into environmental design. I just finished my first year in the intelligent environments research stream. It is pretty cool if you like to make things and work collaboratively. I'm on an interdisciplinary team with faculty and other phd students from electrical engineering, human factors, computer science (experimental software) and healthcare administration. The structure of the intelligent environments program is more similar to that found in engineering than HTC, though I think that other areas of the program are structured in ways consistent with the traditional program structures within the respective fields - for instance planning and cultural geography. Estimated time to complete is 3-6 years - though to do it in three you would have to come in knowing exactly what you want to do and place out of some of the curriculum. Curriculum is interesting - heavy on the human factors, statistical analysis, etc. for the intelligent environments focus.

As others have mentioned above, my application process was less about applying because of a general interest (as with an MArch or BArch) and more about developing a connection with a particular researcher with whom I shared particular interests. I kept in touch about every three to six months with both the researcher and one of the then current phd's, refined my ideas and the researcher let me know when it was a good time for me to apply. When working on funded research projects, it seems timing of the start of projects and flow of funds can factor into the efficacy of beginning the process so it is good to be in contact with who you want to work with ahead of time.

A couple other things. Clemson is very good about funding phd candidates. I was given full tuition waiver plus a healthy stipend for three years. After that, for the last year or so, the hope is that there is enough money left in the research project to pick up the waiver and stipend. Otherwise, there is always teaching. Speaking of which, during periods when you're not on an active funded project, you may be asked to teach. If you're on a funded project, then unless you want to teach, the only expectation is research.

Oh - and a lot of reading and writing - it is a mix of tradition HTC-style reading with a arch/technology focus along with extensive reading of tech papers from IEEE, ACM Portal, etc.

There is an expectation to have at least one publication in a peer reviewed journal or a prime conference, such as UbiComp, Intelligent Environments, etc.

Jul 18, 09 11:52 pm  · 

a quick comment -- surprised U Penn isn't on the list -- three of my best professors have PhD in Architecture from Penn.

Sep 19, 10 2:10 pm  · 

a quick comment -- surprised U Penn isn't on the list -- three of my best professors received their PhDs in Architecture from Penn.

Sep 19, 10 2:11 pm  · 

OOPS sorry, just saw U. Penn!!!

Sep 19, 10 2:11 pm  · 

Another resource that may be helpful.

Welcome to the PhDiA website.

Every decade or so, the debate about the roles and importance of doctoral education in architecture is renewed. While doctoral programs in many other professions have been widely accepted for years, architecture has struggled with the role of advanced education and research. With the recent dramatic growth in the number and size of doctoral programs, and the establishment of PhDiA as an organization to support doctoral education, we have reached a tipping point.

PhDiA is a resource center and organization for doctoral education in architecture and environmental design. PhDiA members include university faculty, doctoral students, and professionals.

Sep 22, 10 7:38 am  · 

Dr. Architecture, that Web site was built in conjunction with my research! Doug Noble was one of my thesis advisors :o)

I love it when things come full circle!

Sep 23, 10 3:53 pm  · 

Yes, I've been hoping to see PhDiA get up and running....

Sep 25, 10 2:21 pm  · 

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