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Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning

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Questions about these requirements? See the contact info at the bottom of the page. 

Students may study for a PhD degree in architecture, landscape architecture, or urban planning. The program is jointly 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 cities, landscapes, and regions with an emphasis on social, economic, ecological, transportation and infrastructural systems. (The PhD program does not prepare students for licensing as design practitioners in any of these fields. For information on professional master's programs, contact the Graduate School of Design, Admissions Office, 48 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, 617-495-5453.)

Academic Residence

Two years of full-time study while registered in the Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (Harvard Griffin GSAS) are required. 

Program of Study 

Course information for most courses at Harvard (including both the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School of Design) is available in the my.harvard Course Listings. The Cross Registration catalog is a helpful resource for courses at other Harvard professional schools.  

Students are expected to prepare in each of the following areas:

  1. General Knowledge of the Field: Field has two meanings in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning. It can refer to the professional domain to which the student’s research is related. More importantly, it refers to the academic domain chosen by the student. Regarding the first meaning, the PhD is an academic degree, but PhD holders in our fields may be interacting with professionals. In fact, many may elect to teach in professional schools. Therefore, in addition to academic requirements, it is advised that PhD students be generally knowledgeable of the basic skills of the respective design professions. As for the second meaning, doctoral research is necessarily in conversation with other research. Doctoral students must acquire a good knowledge of the disciplinary environment in which they plan to insert themselves as scholars.
  2. Major Subject: The interfaculty structure and purposes of the program require that students cross disciplinary boundaries. All students must master a major area of their respective academic field, including the historic 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 his or her major subject.
  3. All students must also achieve a thorough grounding in the theory and methods of one of the arts or sciences related to their major subject, such as history of art, cultural history, economics, philosophy, government, sociology, or history of science equivalent to at least one year of full-time graduate study.
  4. Languages and Mathematics: Candidates for the degree in architecture must normally have a reading knowledge of at least two languages other than English in which there is broad and important literature related to their field or major subject; those in urban planning must have one other language. Every student must have a level of mathematical skills appropriate for research in the major subject. 
  5. There are two required courses, Discourse and Methods I and II. These seminars are designed as an introduction to the methodologies, canonical texts, and major issues that have shaped the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, and/or urbanism.


The Harvard Griffin GSAS 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. If students are cross-registered in Schools where the grading system does not use letter grades, they should ask the course instructor to issue letter grades.

Faculty Advisor and Student's Graduate Committee

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 consultation 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 is given only during the fall and spring terms of the academic year. The examination tests the student’s mastery of their 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 should meet regularly with the examination committee and, with its help, should formulate a proposal describing the general and specific fields to be covered in the examination and possible examination questions.

The examination comprises a general and a specific field. The general field is ordinarily 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 both an oral and written exam. The expectation will be that the oral will be used for the general field and the written for the specific. This may be inverted if the student and committee feel it is of more value to do it in that manner. Two or three written essays (total eight hours) will be assigned for the specific field. Within one week of the written examination, the student and the examination committee will meet to evaluate the entire examination and discuss plans for the dissertation. Students whose performance on the examination 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 on Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning; one reader will normally be from the area of the student's disciplinary minor; and one reader must be from the Graduate School of Design.

No later than five months (within the academic calendar) after the successful completion of the general examination, students will submit to the chair a written dissertation proposal and the names of the faculty persons who will supervise it. The student will confer with the examination committee to discuss and develop the proposal. The committee will conduct an oral examination of the dissertation proposal the purpose of which is to provide for the student a formal occasion to discuss and gain approval of the dissertation topic. 

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. Students who require more than five years to complete the dissertation after passing the general examination must petition the Committee on the PhD Program in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning to extend their time. 

Contact Info

Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning Website

Margaret Moore de Chicojay 
Programs Administrator 
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