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The role of research at UCLA Architecture and Urban Design is to produce new forms of knowledge.

These forms can be expressed in a variety of ways: from the design of spaces, objects, buildings, urban environments, urban strategy, and images, to a carefully curated exhibition or the writing of a compelling story or scholarly text.

As a Tier 1 public research university, our permanent faculty bring their ongoing research agenda to the context of teaching through advanced-level work. Our collective research interests are diverse and international in their focus, but we often engage city departments and officials around issues impacting the growth of Los Angeles as a case study for a rapidly evolving urban metropolis. While the format of this work can vary, we train future architects and scholars to seek, shape and produce new forms of knowledge in their respective fields.

Research at AUD takes two essential shapes: research conducted via our curriculum and especially our year-long Research Studios, and research led via our Research Centers.

Research Studios

At a public research university like UCLA, new knowledge is a constant pursuit.

AUD's curriculum fosters both research itself, as well as the tools and perspectives that enable the lifelong pursuit of insight and discovery.

Each of our academic programs brings both the spirit and the act of research into their respective curricula. MArch students each take on a year-long Research Studio in their third year of study; therein, they focus their design skills and interests on a substantial, capstone-style project or topic of inquiry. The MSAUD program engages research to question, challenge, and expand the current conventions of architectural practice. For our MA and PhD programs, research is simultaneously purpose, method, and outcome, as students pursue scholarship that aims to provoke and operate within architecture’s public, professional, and scholarly constituencies.

Our course descriptions (current and historical) offer portal into the different questions, topics, and interests that animate our research and propel our pursuit of new knowledge and ways of designing.

Research on display from 2022-2023 Research Studio, "Narratives of Owens Lake"

Research Centers

One of the avenues through which UCLA AUD accelerates research is its Research Centers.

AUD currently has two: cityLAB-UCLA co-founded by Dana Cuff and Roger Sherman, and directed by Dana Cuff, and xLAB founded and directed by Hitoshi Abe. Depending on grant funding secured each year by individual faculty members, students have the opportunity to apply for student researcher positions to support these creative and scholarly efforts.


cityLAB-UCLA leverages architecture, planning, and design, to address the most critical urban issues facing our cities today. cityLAB recently capped a 10-year effort to double the density of Los Angeles through the design of backyard homes. By co-authoring Accessory Dwelling Unit legislation (AB 229/SB 1069), we doubled the density of California, creating thousands of small residential jobs for architects and builders. In 2019, cityLAB followed up with a study about technology’s role in meeting the growing demand for backyard homes, and creative new approaches to ADU design-finance-build.


A panel of five people sitting in front of a screen with English and Japanese text


xLAB is an international think tank initiative that examines architecture’s elastic boundaries and considers new possibilities through interdisciplinary collaboration in the study of the future built environment. xLAB encourages partnerships with a range of industries-including business, technology and science-creating a vast network of possibilities that expands architecture’s role and potential to serve as an active platform in which to “Research, Test, Share” ideas between fields, people, and places.


BYH over LA

Urban Humanities Institute

The UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative (UHI) is a cross-disciplinary teaching and research initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, based within cityLAB-UCLA. UHI integrates the interpretive, historical approaches of the humanities with the material, projective practices of design, to document, elucidate, and transform the cultural object we call the city. Architecture, urban studies, and humanities students are the heart of the program, and over 150 students have completed the year-long Graduate Certificate in Urban Humanities.