Dissecting the Archipelago: PhD by Design Concepts in the Fields of Architecture and Urban Design

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Van Reusel, H., Michels, C., & Schoonjans, Y. (2021). Dissecting the Archipelago: PhD by Design Concepts in the Fields of Architecture and Urban Design. ARENA Journal of Architectural Research, 6(1).

Publication type

Article in Scientific Journal


PhD programmes within the disciplines of architecture and urban design have in the last decades presented various designerly approaches. In this paper, we suggest viewing the numerous conceptual contributions as an ‘emerging archipelago’ of different attitudes and positions which PhD candidates, as much as PhD programmes, need to navigate, find their standing point within, and contribute to. By presenting five cross-sections of this archipelago, our aim is to offer perspectives to dissect, cut through and explore the nature of the complex conceptual landscape of PhD by Design (PbD). These cross sections have been drawn up from literature reviews and discussions within the context of the Erasmus+ project ‘Mapping, Reflecting and Developing PhD-by-Design Programmes’. Each of the five sections presents one of the following topical debates: science/design, subjectivity, disciplinarity, literacies and practice/theory. In our analysis of Annelies De Smet’s doctoral thesis, ‘Architecting Bodies by Immersive Gestures’, we (graphically) sketch out how a research project can be positioned within the messy and continuously emerging PbD landscape. Introducing the metaphor of an emergent archipelago, the paper opts for an open attitude. By dissecting this archipelago, we aim (in an inevitable act of simplification) to unpack perspectives and raise questions regarding the various approaches that coexist, with overlaps, nuances and oppositions present in their own foundations. We encourage readers to explore in a non-dogmatic way – and to position themselves in – the ‘emerging archipelago’ of attitudes and positions and to thus contribute to its ongoing formation.


PhD by Design: Mapping Conceptual Groundings - Reflecting Methodological Approaches - Developing PhD-Curricula
ERASMUS, October 2018 until September 2020

Projectpartner: KU Leuven, Bergen School of Architecture, Chalmers The ERASMUS+ project contributes to an understanding of design-based PhD programs in the disciplines of architecture and urban ... more ...


Organizational Units

  • Institute of Architecture and Planning

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