Skip to main content

Ph.D. in Architecture

Program Overview

The Penn State Ph.D. in Architecture is a research-based degree supporting a number of areas of inquiry. The program is housed in the Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. It’s distinguishing quality is its broad-based research core, grounded in contemporary theory and methods. The Penn State Ph.D. program faculty include scholars with expertise in architectural theory, building construction and technology, cultural and environmental behavior, the design process, digital design and fabrication, housing, sustainability, landscape architecture and urban design. Visiting scholars will further enhance the program and course offerings. Doctoral candidates are encouraged to draw upon the enormous resources of other Penn State graduate programs for electives that will enrich and broaden their scholarship.

As part of the application process, students must elaborate on their area of proposed specialization. The Ph.D. prepares the scholar for independent thinking and leadership in the field. It expects that the candidate’s research will help redefine her/his field or open up new fields, and that each doctoral dissertation will produce knowledge that is new, original, and valuable. The doctoral program emphasizes the role of critical thinking, broadly applied. Its transdisciplinary nature encourages new exchanges that rethink and redefine the field of architecture, and prepare its graduates to serve in high-level leadership roles. The program accepts applicants holding Master's degrees in architecture, landscape architecture, or an approved related field, such as architectural history, urban design, historic preservation, architectural engineering, or product design.

Faculty Research Clusters

The Ph.D. program offers concentrated inquiry, research, study and pedagogy in the following major areas of focus:

Culture, Society, Space: The Culture, Society, Space research cluster examines how built spaces—from the artifact to the urban—affect those who interact with them and, conversely, how cultural, societal and disciplinary values shape the spaces we create. Projects can address individual buildings, public spaces, communities, or cities, as well as typological, institutional and wider forms of inquiry. Research methods include formal, theoretical, historic/historiographical, sociological and systemic analyses. Studies may focus on spaces and ideas as forms of cultural expression, the people who produce and use them, and/or the ideological forces in which they operate, including all aspects of their sustainability.

Design Computing: The Design Computing research cluster offers students critical knowledge and advanced skills in the use of digital technologies in architecture and related design fields, especially in the areas of visualization, generative systems, and fabrication. By critically examining contemporary discourse on digital media and architecture, this cluster examines the impact of emerging digital technologies on creative processes in shaping our built environment, and investigates how they can be productively utilized in sustainable design, interdisciplinary collaboration, and fabrication. The work of faculty and students in this group spans research on immersive environments, critical studies of design technologies, software development, shape grammars, parametric design, and innovative uses of numerically controlled devices.

Material Matters:The Material Matters research cluster provides students with opportunities to delve into the interaction of materials and processes. With research ranging from material properties exploration to applied process-based design, this cluster encompasses a wide range of creative interests that find common ground in the power of material – the generator and substance of design. Research in the MM cluster is supported by a collection of faculty members who’s work focuses on craft traditions, industrial production, tooling and skills transmission, bricolage and the material imagination, material memory, design-build, and the reuse and restoration of buildings. Student and faculty engagement with Penn State’s considerable materials/making resources in Architecture, Fine Arts, and Engineering is a hallmark of this cluster. MM – as a community of scholars, architects, and designers who fabricate, build, un-build, and innovate – stimulates new knowledge through shared experience in an environment of creative innovation, hands-on exploration, and critical making.

Sustainability: The Sustainability research cluster investigates architecture's potential to improve the quality of life for current and future societies around the globe, addressing issues of natural resource consumption, pollution prevention, and organizational dependencies. Our faculty address aesthetic, technical, economic, and social issues in projects that cover multiple scales. From design processes, historical and theoretical aspects of sustainability, material reclamation and reuse, to identifying social structures preventing sustainable practice, this research cluster offers a comprehensive view of sustainability that promotes interdisciplinary integration. Faculty bring both practitioner and academic experience to their investigations, producing generalizable knowledge that can also be applied in the professional practice of architecture.

Recent Awards of Ph.D. Students

Stephen Mainzer: 2017 Penn State Alumni Association Dissertation Award
Julio Diarte: 2017 Penn State Graduate Exhibition Arts & Humanities Category, 1st Place
Meher Bhagia: 2016 University Graduate Fellowship
Irem Öz: 2015 University Graduate Fellowship



Department of Architecture
121 Stuckeman Family Building
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: 814.865.9535
Fax: 814.863.8137
Contact: Jennifer Howard