Ph.D. in Architecture

Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture Degree Program

Advanced academic program in Architecture oriented toward research and teaching. 
6 years
Degree Conferred: Ph.D. in Architecture

Click here to download our graduate catalogue.
Join our email list to receive updates on graduate admissions at A.UD.

There are two academic graduate degrees in the Department of Architecture and Urban Design: Master of Arts (M.A.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Architecture. These programs produce students whose scholarship aims to provoke and operate within the multiple constituencies in the field of architecture.

Both the M.A. and Ph.D. programs are supported by the Standing Committee, made up of four members from the Department’s faculty: Sylvia Lavin, program director, Dana Cuff, Diane Favro, and Michael Osman. A number of visiting faculty teach courses to expand the range of offerings.


All M.A. and Ph.D. students are required to enroll in a two-year colloquium focused on methods for writing, teaching, and researching in the field of architecture. The six courses that constitute the colloquium train students in the apparatus of academic scholarship. Over the two-year sequence, students produce original research projects and develop skills in long-format writing.

Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture

This program prepares students to enter the academic professions, either in architectural history, architectural design, or other allied fields. Given the Department’s professional orientation in architectural design, Ph.D. students are trained to teach courses in the history and theory of architecture and also engage in studio pedagogy and exhibition design.

Ph.D. students take a series of approved courses in addition to the colloquium, both within the Department and across campus. They select these courses in relation to their own research interests and in consultation with their primary advisor. The priorities for selection are breadth of knowledge and interdisciplinary experience that retains a focused area of expertise. To this end, the students identify Major and Minor Fields of study. The Minor Field is generally fulfilled by satisfactorily completing three courses given by another department and the Major Field by five courses offered within the Department. Once course work is completed, Ph.D. students move to the Comprehensive Exam, Qualifying Exam, and the writing of a dissertation, and final defense, if required by the doctoral committee.

In the transition from course work to exams, Ph.D. students work on one paper beyond its original submission as course work. The paper begins in the context of a departmental seminar, but often continues either in the context of an independent study, summer mentorship, or a second seminar with faculty consent. Upon the research paper’s acceptance, students begin preparing for their comprehensive exam.

The comprehensive exam tests two fields: the first covers a breadth of historical knowledge—300 years at minimum—and the second focuses on in-depth knowledge of a specialization that is historically and thematically circumscribed. Students submit an abstract on each of these fields, provide a substantial bibliography, and prepare additional documentation requested by their primary advisor. These materials are submitted to the committee no less than two weeks before the exam, which occurs as early as the end of the second year.

The Comprehensive Exam itself consists of two parts: an oral component that takes place first, and then a written component. The oral component is comprised of questions posed by the committee based on the student’s submitted materials. The goal of the exam is for students to demonstrate their comprehensive knowledge of their chosen field. The written component of the exam consists in a research paper written in response to a choice of questions posed by the committee. The goal of this portion of the exam is for students to demonstrate their research skills, their ability to develop and substantiate an argument, and to show promise of original contribution to the field. Students have two weeks to write the exam. After the committee has read the exam, the advisor notifies the student of the committee’s decision. Upon the student successful completion of the Comprehensive Exam, they continue to the Qualifying Exam.

Students are expected to take the Qualifying Exam by the end of their third year. The exam focuses on a dissertation prospectus that a student develops with their primary advisor and in consultation with their Ph.D. committee. Each student’s Ph.D. committee consists of at least two members of the Standing Committee and at most one outside member, from another department at the University or from another institution. The prospectus includes an argument with broad implications, demonstrates that the dissertation will make a contribution of knowledge and ideas to the field, demonstrates mastery of existing literature and discourses, and includes a plan and schedule for completion.

The Ph.D. dissertation is written after the student passes the qualifying exam, at which point the student has entered Ph.D. candidacy. The dissertation is defended around the sixth year of study. Students graduating from the program have taken posts in wide range of universities, both in the United States and internationally.

Research Opportunities

The intellectual life of the students in the M.A. and Ph.D. programs is undergirded by the increasing number of opportunities afforded to students through specialized faculty-led research projects. These include: cityLab, the Urban Humanities Initiative, the Experimental Technologies Center, and Hi-C.

cityLAB is a think tank that focuses on experimental urban architecture. Its director, Dana Cuff, and co-director, Roger Sherman, initiate projects that engage research and design related to three initiatives: the postsurburban city, urban sensing, and rethinking green. Advanced research students from the Department, as well as related departments, participate in all cityLAB undertakings. Recent projects include symposia, design competitions, funded research grants, design-technology installations, and publications on topics ranging from design after disaster, to innovative housing neighborhood infrastructure, to high-speed rail’s implications for the city.

The Urban Humanities Initiative (UHI), of which Dana Cuff is one of the principle investigators, has established UCLA as an internationally recognized hub for collaborative study of urbanism that bridges design with the humanities. UHI’s focus is the comparative study of megacities on the Pacific Rim, including: Tokyo, Shanghai, and Mexico City. Seminars and studios are linked by a broad conceptual themes which demonstrate overlapping cultural and historical dynamics, including: risk and resilience, identity, and density. Several conferences have been organized, including one organized by the M.A. and Ph.D. programs of the Department, “Archiving Risk: Contributions of Architectural and Urban History,” in 2014.

The Experiential Technologies Center (ETC), directed by Diane Favro, conducts interdisciplinary research focusing on 3D simulation modeling and other types of digital experiential analyses. Students create real-time models of historical environments in UCLA’s cutting-edge Technology Sandbox and Visualization Portal, and have the opportunity to participate in archaeological excavations worldwide. Models produced include simulations of ancient Rome and the Amon temple at Karnak. The ETC also participates in UCLA’s dynamic Hypercities Project and the Keck Digital Mapping Program.

Hi-C is a collaborative group of doctoral and design students, focusing on scholarly research and critical approaches to contemporary design, specializes in extending seminars into exhibitions. Led by Sylvia Lavin, Hi-C has organized such international exhibitions as: “Craig Hodgetts, Playmaker” on view at the Ace Gallery Los Angeles in 2009; “Take Note” on view at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal in 2010; “Neil Denari, The Artless Drawing” on view at the Ace Gallery in Los Angeles 2010; and “Ultra Expo” at the Japanese American National Museum in 2011, “Everything Loose Will Land,” and “The New Creativity: Man and Machines” were both exhibited at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in 2013 and 2015, respectively.

Current Initiatives

The M.A. and Ph.D. programs are launching a Network for Architectural Scholarship. The Network seeks to form a community that gathers to discuss contemporary protocols in pedagogy, research and exhibition making.

In organized meetings, symposia, and conferences, the group will test the various communication environments and media systems—curricula, books, juries, buildings, installations, archives—that structure architecture’s effect on the academy and culture at large.

The first Network conference will convene during the academic year 2016-17. Some of the invited participants include:

Nicholas DeMonchaux, UC Berkeley

Patricia Morton, UC Riverside

Ed Dimendberg, UC Irvine

Albert Narath, UC Santa Cruz

Simon Sadler, UC Davis

Maristella Casciato, Getty Research Institute

Tom Hines, UC Los Angeles

Ann Bergren, UC Los Angeles

Dell Upton, UC Los Angeles

Greg Lynn, UC Los Angeles

Jonathan Massey, CCA

David Gissen, CCA

Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher, SFMOMA

Kimberli Meyer, Cal State Long Beach

Ewan Branda, Woodbury University


Dean Abernathy, "Computer Visualization and Simulation as a Medium for Architectural and Urban History Pedagogy"

Abdul Al-Balam, "An Advanced Digital Solution for Representing Continuity in Urban Architectural Change: A Virtual Urban Architectural Evolution"

Tulay Atak, "Byzantine Modern: Displacements of Modernism in Istanbul"

Ewan Branda, "Virtual Machines: Culture, telematique, and the architecture of information at Centre Beaubourg, 1968-1977"

Penelope Dean, "Delivery without Discipline:  Architecture in the Age of Design"

Dora Epstein-Jones, "Architecture on the Move: Modernism and Mobility in the Postwar"

Jose Gamez, "Contested Terrains:  Space, Place, and Identity in Postcolonial Los Angeles”

Todd Gannon, “Theory and Design in the Last Machine Age”

Tamara Morgenstern, "Early Baroque Urban Planning at the Water's Edge in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies"

Eran Neuman, "Oblique Discourses: Claude Parent and Paul Virilio's Oblique Function Theory and Postwar Architectural Modernity"

Alexander Ortenberg, "Drawing Practices: The Art and Craft of Architectural Representation"

David Salomon, "One Thing or Another: The World Trade Center and the Implosion of Modernism"

Ari Seligmann, "Architectural Publicity in the Age of Globalization"

Lisa Snyder, "The Design and Use of Experiential Instructional Technology for the Teaching of Architectural History in American Undergraduate Architecture Programs"

Rebeka Vital, "Incorporation of Cultural Elements Into Architectural Historical Reconstructions Through Virtual Reality"

Jon Yoder, "Sight Design:  The Immersive Visuality of John Lautner"