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Ph.D. in Architecture


The PHD in Architecture addresses the development of modern architectural form and ideas as they have been affected by social, economic, and technological change. In broad terms, it encompasses the relations between the profession, practice, civil institutions, and the society at large.

As a doctoral program, it is oriented toward the training of scholars in the field of architectural history and theory. Its structure reflects a dual understanding of the scholar’s role in the discipline at large: as a teacher and as a researcher making an original contribution to the field, with an emphasis on expanding and reinterpreting disciplinary knowledge in a broad intellectual arena. Course requirements are therefore designed to give entering students a solid foundation in historical knowledge and theoretical discourse, with sufficient flexibility to spark and support individual research agendas. The program’s focus is on the history and theory of modern and contemporary architecture and urbanism in an international and cross-cultural context, from the mid-eighteenth century to the present. Within this, a wide range of research is supported through the varied expertise of the faculty and through strong relationships with other departments throughout the university and beyond.

The Ph.D. in Architecture is a program within the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) while the actual degree is granted by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS).

Admission for 2024

  • The application deadline for 2024 admissions was January 4, 2024 and is now closed.
  • For additional information on the application process and requirements, please see the GSAS website.
Organization of the Program

All students entering the PhD program in Architecture receive two Residence Units of Advanced Standing, having entered with a master’s degree in architecture, architectural history, or a related field. As such, students must complete the M.Phil. degree within three years from initial registration and the Ph.D. within eight years from initial registration.

Year 1: Students begin required coursework, including language proficiencies
Year 2: Students complete required coursework and language proficiencies; begin required teaching apprenticeship
Year 3: Students complete required teaching apprenticeship; complete M.Phil. Examination (by mid-February); and defend the Dissertation Prospectus (by early May)
Year 4+: Students research, write, and defend the doctoral dissertation

At least once each semester, students should meet individually with the director of the program or with their program or dissertation adviser. Students are assigned a program advisor in the first year, the duties of which are assumed by their dissertation advisor in the third year. Students must have acquired a dissertation advisor by the seventh week of their sixth semester. Students are allowed to change both their program and dissertation advisers during the course of their studies.

All students are expected to meet the requirements of Satisfactory Academic Progress as stipulated by the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. Renewal of student funding packages each year is dependent upon their maintaining good academic and administrative standing.


Students are required to spend four semesters in residence during which time they are expected to take thirteen courses (39 credit points), of which at least eight must be taken for a letter grade. The remaining five courses can be taken for R credit. The required academic course work breaks down into the four sections described below. In addition to the doctoral colloquia and doctoral seminars, five further classes should be seminars (not lecture courses). At least six of the thirteen courses should be taken with faculty from the Ph.D. in Architecture committee. It is assumed that these thirteen courses will be spread out approximately evenly over the first four semesters of study, although students can complete a larger number of courses in the first year to accommodate teaching requirements in the second year.

For any course in which a student receives an incomplete, the student must complete all outstanding coursework before the beginning of the next academic year. To remain in good standing with the program, students cannot hold more than one incomplete at any time. Students must complete all incomplete coursework prior to taking their M.Phil. examination.

  • Section 1: Doctoral Colloquia

    All students are required to take two doctoral colloquia in the fall semester and at least two doctoral seminars in the spring semester over the four-semester sequence. Three of these must be taken for a letter grade.

  • Section 2: Architectural History/Theory

    To complete distribution requirements, students will be required to take graduate-level courses from the following areas of study:

    1. One pre-1750 (Western or non-Western)
    2. Two courses either in Eighteenth-Century Architecture and Theory or Nineteenth-Century Architecture and Theory

At least half of the syllabus must address these time frames for a course to satisfy the requirement.

At the discretion of the program director, these requirements may be modified for students who have had previous, relevant graduate-level courses.

  • Section 3: Social and Critical Studies

    Students should take at least one course outside of Architecture and Art History. Representative departments in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with an emphasis on comparative historical and critical studies include: African American and African Diaspora Studies, Anthropology, East Asian Languages and Cultures, English and Comparative Literature, Germanic Language and Literature, History, Latin American and Iberian Cultures, Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, Philosophy, and Political Science, or within relevant University Centers and Institutes. The specific topic and the choice of faculty will be decided in consultation with the student’s program adviser or the director of the program.

  • Section 4: Electives

    Remaining coursework is completed through elective courses in students’ areas of interest, the selection of which should be decided in consultation with the student’s program adviser or the director of the program.

Students’ multi-year fellowships include participation in the Ph.D. in Architecture program’s professional apprenticeship, which includes teaching responsibilities in the second and third years of the program. These apprenticeships are typically within the Questions in Architectural History sequence. The faculty regard these experiences as a vital part of students’ education.
Students must demonstrate reading proficiency in two languages other than English. Language proficiency courses and exams are administered by relevant GSAS departments. GSAPP will pay for up to two language courses taken during the summer at Columbia if needed due to the country/region of the student’s specialization. Note that the GSAS policies regarding Summer Tuition Credit apply.

The four-semester program has been designed to give doctoral candidates sufficient training for the M.Phil. examination, with a special emphasis on the ability to teach classes in modern architectural and urban development and its relationship to parallel developments in material history and contemporary thought. Students must complete their M.Phil. (generals) examination no later than their sixth semester in the program.

The M.Phil. qualifying examination is divided into three interrelated sections:

  1. Three revised coursework papers, chosen to reflect the student’s research interests and abilities

  2. Two essays written in response to specific questions formulated by the examining committee, one essay pertaining to the major field and one to the minor field. Students will receive two questions pertaining to the major field but only answer one of them.

  3. The oral examination

The qualifying exam will be divided into major and minor fields. These fields are to be determined in consultation with the program faculty supervising the exam. The major field should be fairly broad and involve cross-cultural comparisons and/or cover at least a century in time. The minor field should focus on another topic, historical or theoretical in character, distinct from the major field. Students must consult the relevant supervising faculty in deciding on their major and minor fields.

The examining committee will be comprised of three members, two covering the major field and one covering the minor field. At least two members of the examining committee should be drawn from the Ph.D. committee or from the program’s associated faculty. Each student prepares the two bibliographies in consultation with these faculty and distributes final versions of the bibliographies one month prior to the oral examination. Each member of the committee will be responsible for one question, which the student receives a week after submitting the bibliographies. The papers are to be completed in a two-week period and submitted at least one week prior to the oral examination. The oral exam consists of discussion of the submitted essays, the coursework papers, and the bibliographies.

To receive the degree of M.Phil. students must complete the required coursework, the M.Phil. exam, the required four semesters of teacher training, and must have demonstrated proficiency in two languages other than English.


After successfully completing the qualifying examination, each student defends his or her dissertation proposal before a faculty committee, composed of the student’s dissertation adviser, who must be on the list of approved Architecture Doctoral Dissertation Advisors, and two other readers, at least one of whom should be from the list of Architecture dissertation advisors or associated faculty. Defense of the dissertation prospectus must take place before the end of the sixth semester.

The student will then be free to pursue the research topic independently, in ongoing consultation with the dissertation adviser. It is expected that the dissertation be completed approximately two to three years after approval of the topic. Since all students come into the program with Advanced Standing, students must complete the dissertation within eight years of entering the program, approved Leaves of Absence notwithstanding.

The dissertation must be submitted four weeks before the dissertation defense. A copy is to be provided for each member of the examining committee. This committee consists of five people, at least three of whom are approved as a dissertation advisor in Architecture or the associated faculty. At least one member of the committee must be from outside GSAPP. The student is granted the Ph.D. upon defending the dissertation successfully and depositing the final copy in accordance with University regulations.

For more information on the Ph.D. dissertation, refer to the GSAS Dissertation Toolkit.

Upon entering the program, each student is assigned a program advisor from within the Ph.D. committee, with whom they will consult for the duration of their coursework. In some instances, this might be the program director. This advisor is not selected because of an affinity between their research and the interests of the student. Rather, the program advisor’s role is to provide independent guidance and mentorship on all aspects of student life. Students in the first five semesters of the program should arrange to meet at least once each semester with the program advisor or the program director to discuss their academic progress and future plans. Students in the dissertation phase of the program should meet at least once each semester with their dissertation advisor.
  • For information on Ph.D. student employee compensation and benefits, click here.
  • For information on available resources for parents, click here.
  • For more information on the GSAPP PhD Travel, Conference, and Exhibition Participation Support program, click here.