Ph.D. in Architecture

Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture Degree Program

Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture (Ph.D)

Advanced Academic Program in Architecture Oriented Toward Research and Teaching 
Program Duration: 6 years
Degree Conferred: Ph.D. in Architecture

There are two academic graduate degrees at UCLA 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 three faculty members: Michael Osman, interim program director, Dana Cuff, and Cristóbal Amunátegui. 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.


This program prepares students to enter the academic professions, either in architectural history, architectural design, or other allied fields. Given AUD'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 AUD and across the UCLA 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 at AUD. 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 and the Urban Humanities Initiative.

cityLAB is a think tank that focuses on experimental urban architecture. Its director, Dana Cuff, initiates projects that engage research and design related to three initiatives: the postsurburban city, urban sensing, and rethinking green. Advanced research students from AUD, as well as related UCLA 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.

Recent Dissertation and Thesis Titles

  • Anas Alomaim, "Nation Building in Kuwait, 1961-1991."
  • 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.”
  • Aaron Cayer, "Design and Profit: Architectural Practice in the Age of Accumulation"
  • Per-Johan Dahl, “Code Manipulation, Architecture In-Between Universal and Specific Urban Spaces.”
  • Penelope Dean, “Delivery without Discipline: Architecture in the Age of Design.”
  • Miriam Engler, “Gordon Cullen and the ‘Cut-and-Paste’ Urban Landscape.”
  • Dora Epstein-Jones, “Architecture on the Move: Modernism and Mobility in the Postwar.”
  • Sergio Figueiredo, “The Nai Effect: Museological Institutions and the Construction of Architectural Discourse.”
  • Jose Gamez, “Contested Terrains:  Space, Place, and Identity in Postcolonial Los Angeles.”
  • Todd Gannon, “Dissipations, Accumulations, and Intermediations:  Architecture, Media and the Archigrams, 1961–1974.”
  • Whitney Moon, "The Architectural Happening: Diller and Scofidio, 1979-89"
  • 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.”
  • Brian Sahotsky, "The Roman Construction Process: Building the Basilica of Maxentius"
  • Marie Saldana, “A Procedural Reconstruction of the Urban Topography of Magnesia on The Maeander.”
  • David Salomon, “One Thing or Another: The World Trade Center and the Implosion of Modernism.”
  • Ari Seligmann, “Architectural Publicity in the Age of Globalization.”
  • Zheng Tan, “Conditions of The Hong Kong Section: Spatial History and Regulatory Environment of Vertically Integrated Developments.”
  • Jon Yoder, “Sight Design:  The Immersive Visuality of John Lautner.”