Concave's Divergence In Architectural Research PhD Symposium participants.

Ph.D. in Architecture

Ph.D. in Architecture

Doctoral studies in architecture train students for careers conducting research in academic settings, in scientific laboratories, and now increasingly in private firms as well. The aim of research is to create new knowledge that can help us build well and create responsible and responsive physical environments. Such a knowledge necessarily engages with the full complexity and messiness of human life. It includes understanding of social, physical, historical and cultural impact of design decisions and practices, as well as the development of technical methods and computational tools to improve decision-making in design.

Specializing in architectural research, therefore, requires mastering aspects of at least one cognate discipline—history, cultural studies, psychology, sociology, cognitive sciences, engineering, computation—and quite often of more than one of these. Not surprisingly, the study needed to do this is demanding. But those students who bring with them a deeply held curiosity about the built world, an ability to work independently, and an openness to learning new skills and ideas will find the work deeply satisfying and tremendously rewarding.  

Our Program

Established in 1982, the Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture Program at Georgia Tech is one of the largest and most expansive programs of its kind in the United States, with approximately thirty students in residence pursuing their Ph.D. coursework or completing their dissertation research. A diverse faculty of scholars and researchers advise students in one of the following four areas of specialization.

Bird's eye view of cul desacs, supergrids, and curvilinear grids for Atlanta, New York, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C.

Architecture, Culture, and Behavior

Ph.D. student and Tarek Rakha fly a drone in the Hinman Courtyard

Building Design Technology

CULC Installation in the Clough Undergraduate Student Learning Commons

Design Computation

Heather Hyde Minor speaking at the Historic Academy of Medicine

History, Theory, Criticism

Our Ph.D. Process

Students devote most of their time in close individual work with a faculty advisor in one of these areas of specialization. The course of studies allows students considerable room to define their own course work, which can be taken both within the school as well as in other departments. Once the course work is completed, studies become practice oriented—most of the student time is spent in actual research, either on their own topic, or contributing to faculty-led research projects. The students’ progress towards the degree is charted through a series of qualifying milestones.

After identifying a topic of research within their area of specialization, students develop a preliminary research paper to demonstrate the ability to frame and describe a scholarly topic, pass a comprehensive exam that tests their mastery of both depth and breadth of knowledge in their field of study, and, finally, produce and orally defend a dissertation that makes a demonstrable original contribution to their area of study. Along the way, they are expected to produce scholarly publications and make presentations of their work to fellow researchers and scholars. A distinctive feature of our program is the availability of opportunities to teach, both as preceptors and assistants, but also as independent instructors.

Your Opportunities

Ph.D. studies are a natural springboard for academic positions. The majority of the graduates from our programs have gone on to academic careers both in the US and internationally, often making quick promotion to leadership positions. An increasing number of graduates, particularly in the technology and computation tracks are have found positions in national and private laboratories and other research centers. The training to do independent work, to think abstractly, and to handle technical literature has also provided a strong general foundation for some graduates to find work in areas beyond architecture.

It is in the nature of research in any field to be at the cutting edge of disciplinary development. The graduates of a research program should, therefore, expect come away not just with competence in a subject matter and ability to solve problems, but also the ability to think of ways to advance ideas, techniques, and methods. This is a remarkably fortuitous time to those who seeks to do just this in architecture.

Recent developments in computational technology, in our ability to collect vast amount of behavioral and user data, in techniques of machine learning and data analysis, and in the ability to design and build highly complex forms using automated algorithmic processes, are not only creating an unprecedented appetite for research within architecture, they are also erasing traditional sub-disciplinary boundaries. Beyond career opportunities, therefore, ambitious graduates of the program will also find themselves well positioned to make foundational contributions to a discipline that is in an excitingly formative stage.

Meet our Ph.D. Students

Doctoral students in the School of Architecture develop knowledge and technologies that enhance design imagination and the design process. Learn more about our current Ph.D. students here.


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