PhD by Design: Mapping Conceptual Groundings - Reflecting Methodological Approaches - Developing PhD-Curricula

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Type and Duration

ERASMUS, October 2018 until September 2020


Institute of Architecture and Planning

Main Research

Sustainable Planning and Construction

Field of Research

Architectural Design Theory


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 design. The four partners - KU Leuven, The Bergen School of Architecture, Chalmers and the University of Liechtenstein - review the conceptual underpinnings, methodological tools and curricular that have emerged in the context of PhD by Design in the past decades. The findings of the project will be presented and discussed at the project's closing conference in Vaduz, Sept. 17th-18th 2020. The project's findings will be submitted for publication in form of a special collection with the Journal AJAR: Arena Journal of Architectural Research.

As part of the Bologna process and the European Commission's "Higher Education Modernization Agenda" schools of architecture and urban design are facing the challenge of developing educational programs on all three levels of higher education (BA, MA, PhD). While Bachelor- and Master-Degree-Programs have successfully been established in the past decades, the implementation and promotion of PhD-programs has been a thorny issue for most schools of architecture and urban design. Since architecture is traditionally rather a practical than an academic discipline it lacks a (common) understanding of the meaning and practices of academic research. Many European schools have come up with curricula that adopt methodologies, examination formats and evaluation schemes from disciplines with strong research traditions in the natural or social sciences.

Therefore, existing PhD-programs tend to address research questions located rather at the periphery of the design disciplines, addressing problems of e.g. architectural history, urban sociology, building physics or building technologies. However, research problems that are located at the "core" of architecture and design practice remain largely unaddressed. During the past decade various European design and art schools have begun to develop design-based education on PhD-level. The goal of the research project consists in mapping these approaches in order to interrelate, position and develop further the various streams of doing research-by-design. In so doing the project contributes to a reflexive, creative and collaborative positioning and implementation of new and existing PhD-programs.

The project's output aims to provide an insight into the conceptual underpinnings, methodological tools and modules of curricular that can be assembled and adapted to the resources, cultural specificities and institutional histories of design schools across Europe.

Project Collaborator