Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning

Students may study for a PhD degree in architecture, landscape architecture, or urban planning. These three degrees are administered by a committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in cooperation with the Faculty of Design.

The program is intended for persons who wish to enter teaching and advanced research careers in the history and theory of architecture, architectural technology, landscape architecture, and urban form from antiquity to the present; or the analysis and development of buildings, cities, landscapes, and regions with an emphasis on social, economic, technological, ecological, and infrastructural systems. (The PhD program does not prepare students for licensing as design practitioners in any of these fields. For information on professional doctoral or master's programs, contact the Graduate School of Design, Admissions Office, 48 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, (617) 495-5453.)

The First Two Years


Two years of full-time study while registered in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences are required. Eight courses must be taken in the major subject area and eight in the disciplinary minor (see below). A pro-seminar in Discourse and Methods must be taken each year.

Reading courses are ordinarily not part of a student’s program until the second year.

Course information may be found in the current Courses of Instruction offered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences as well as in the course catalogues printed by Harvard’s other professional Schools, including the GSD catalog. These publications are also available online.

Major Subject and Disciplinary Minor

The interfaculty and interdisciplinary structure of the program requires that students cross intellectual boundaries. All students must master a major area of their respective field, including the historical development and current state of research on the subject. In addition, every student must demonstrate competence in the methods of inquiry used for research in their major subject. The disciplinary minor is a specific field in a narrower area of study chosen by the student and subject to faculty review; in principle it should comprise a coherent and clearly defined area of scholarly inquiry that may be interdisciplinary in nature.

General Knowledge of the Field

The PhD is an academic degree, but holders of the PhD in the design fields may be interacting with scholars and professionals. The PhD program prepares its graduates for teaching in a range of institutions of higher education (including liberal art colleges, research universities, and professional schools) Therefore, in addition to academic requirements, it is expected that every PhD student possess general knowledge of the basic skills of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design.

Languages and Quantitative Ability

Candidates for the degree in architecture must normally have a reading knowledge of at least one languages other than English in which there is broad and important literature related to their field or major subject. Every student must have a level of quantitative skills appropriate for research in the major subject.


The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences requires that all students maintain an average of B or better in each year of graduate study. All Incomplete grades must be removed before the end of the next regular term.


The chair of the PhD committee will assign a faculty member as the student’s advisor at the time of registration in the program. This advisor will assist in planning the student’s academic program. In addition, not fewer than two faculty members, appointed by the chair in consultation with the student, will be made available for advising regarding the general examination, prospectus, and the dissertation

Master of Arts (AM)

The department does not admit candidates for a terminal AM degree. PhD candidates, after having completed eight four-credit courses with satisfactory grades, may apply for a master’s degree. The degree may also be offered to students unable to complete the PhD.

Teaching Fellowships

Teaching fellowships are considered important for a student’s professional training and are guaranteed in the third and fourth years. Normally a student teaches two to four sections per year.

General Examination

Students are expected to take the general examination in the fifth term of residence, and no later than one year after completion of the required coursework. The examination, which is given only during the fall and spring terms of the academic year, tests the student’s mastery of the general field of scholarship, specific interpretive problems within that field, and their ability to research and write a dissertation.

At least two months prior to the date of the examination, the student will meet regularly with the examination committee and will formulate a proposal describing the general and specific fields to be covered in the examination as well as possible examination questions.

The examination comprises a major and minor field. The general field is typically a broad area of history and theory of architecture, landscape architecture, or urban planning (for example, “modern architecture from 1750 to the present”). The specific field is a narrower area of study chosen by the student and subject to faculty review; in principle it should comprise a coherent and clearly defined area of scholarly inquiry that may be interdisciplinary in nature.

The examination will normally consist of two or three written essays, one in the general field (eight hours) and one or two in the specific field. Within one week of the written examination, the student and the examination committee will meet to evaluate the written essays and conduct an oral examination. At the end of the sixth semester and after the general examination has been completed, the student will write and present their dissertation prospectus to their chosen dissertation committee. The committee will conduct an oral examination of the dissertation proposal. The purpose is to provide a formal occasion to discuss and gain approval of the dissertation topic.

Students whose performance on any part of the examination and prospectus defense is not satisfactory will be given one opportunity to repeat all or part of it.


The dissertation will be directed by a committee consisting of one primary advisor and at least two secondary advisors or readers.

Two readers must be from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences or the Standing Committee; one reader will normally have expertise in the minor field and one or more readers must be from the Graduate School of Design faculty.

Students are normally expected to complete the program (including defense and approval of the dissertation) within seven years of admission. Students who require more than five years to complete the dissertation after passing the General Examination must petition the Standing Committee in order to extend their time.

The completed manuscript of the dissertation must be submitted to the director and readers no less than six weeks before the formal defense. The degree recommendation of the dissertation committee is due at the Registrar’s Office per its assigned completion deadlines. The final copy of the dissertation must conform to the requirements described in Dissertations.

Length of Program

Students are normally expected to complete their program (including approval of the dissertation) within seven years of entering the program. If more than five years elapse between the passing of the general examination and the completion of the dissertation, the student will normally be required to retake all or parts of the general examination.