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PhD Program & Degree Requirements


The PhD in Architecture focuses on design-led research. It is the only doctoral program in Canada advancing architectural research on and through design. Students engage design as a mode of critical inquiry, knowledge production and transformative agency. The core component of this program is the design-driven dissertation, involving creative scholarship evaluated at important milestones. These milestone projects and presentations serve as forums for experimentation, dissemination and interpretive feedback. Students are expected to articulate rigorous research questions in relation to relevant contextual, theoretical and/or historical frameworks; demonstrate meaningful innovation and reflective expertise in a defined area of study; and make original, significant and compelling contributions to disciplinary knowledge.

Program Requirements

The program consists of two graded graduate courses and three pass/fail milestones:

  • Research Seminar (ARxxxx, 1 cr), selected from available graduate architecture courses or approved directed study course;
  • Thesis and Design Research (AR8110, 1cr), or directed study course with advisor
  • Milestone 1 (ARxxxx, 1 cr) – Creative Project (multi-media installation and Design Research Dissemination)
  • Milestone 2 – Design Research Proposal / Candidacy Exam (written document & oral defense)
  • Milestone 3 – Dissertation (written study, design research documentation and possible installation)


Milestones are critical pass/fail thresholds for the presentation and evaluation of the design research. Work for milestones #1 and #2 should advance concurrently and may be evaluated in any sequence during year two. Additional interim presentations and submissions may be required, depending on the nature of the design research and project objectives.

1. Creative Project: The exact nature of this student-led design research project and its dissemination will be determined by the student in close conversation with the supervisor and advisory committee in view of the research questions, modalities and objectives. This milestone may take the form of an exhibition, installation, performance, colloquium, publication, etc., and is to be accompanied by a design research statement and appropriate written document. It may consist of a single event or a series. The public presentation shall be an active mode of advancing the research and serve as a forum for critical feedback from committee members, peers, faculty and the broader architectural community.

2. Design Research Proposal / Candidacy Exam: This written document and oral defense, with appropriate visual and multimedia material, serves to ground, deepen and advance the creative project. It is to be completed before the end of the second year. See YSGS (PDF file)  Guidelines for Candidacy Examinations for Doctoral Programs: The written exam is designed to ascertain a candidate’s understanding of the basic theories, and recent developments in their area of study. This understanding must exhibit both articulate comprehension and critical exposition. The candidate must indicate the ways in which the proposed dissertation links with previous research in the area and advances knowledge in the field.

3. Dissertation: A culminating written and illustrated study, including design research documentation, installations and events (as applicable), respecting YSGS Guidelines  (PDF file) Thesis, MRP, and Dissertation Submission Requirements. The dissertation is to be submitted and presented to the advisory committee at least six weeks in advance of the final defense and public presentation. The student, supervisor and advisory committee will define in advance the type and scope of the dissertation. Original creative work (such as drawings, models, installations, and events) must be permanently documented with appropriate media (video, photography, etc), and be appropriately credited and citable, listing all contributors and sources, with the doctoral candidate as the primary author. Irrespective of its form, the dissertation must demonstrate the PhD candidate's ability to carry out rigorous and significant independent work and to present clear and compelling results that make an original contribution to disciplinary knowledge.

Program at a Glance

The table below outlines a sample three-year PhD in Architecture program of study. Two seminars must be taken in the first year of study. Work for milestones #1 and #2 should advance concurrently and may be evaluated in any sequence during year two. Additional interim presentations and submissions may be required, depending on the nature of the design research and project objectives.





Year 1

Development of a design research plan of study


ARxxx - Research Seminar (selected from available graduate courses or approved directed study course)

Ongoing Design Research



AR8110 - Thesis and Design Research, or equivalent directed study course

Ongoing Design Research


+ confirmation of advisory committee

Year 2

Milestone 1 – Design Research Creative Project


Ongoing Design Research

Milestone 2 – Design Research Proposal / Candidacy Exam

Year 3

Ongoing Design Research

Ongoing Design Research

Milestone 3 – Design Research Dissertation (final submission and defense)


Degree Completion Time Regulations

The minimum time in the program is three years. The maximum time in the program is six years, as per the Yeates School of Graduate Studies Policy 170(b).

The Yeates School of Graduate Studies (YSGS) requires your continuous registration throughout the residency period for the program in which you are registered.

Grade Requirements

As per YSGS policy on Academic Performance, a minimum grade of B must be achieved in all courses, and satisfactory status must be maintained for all in progress milestones. Failure to maintain an acceptable academic standing may be considered grounds for dismissal. Annual progress reports are required. One unsatisfactory (UNS) progress report results in a students’ ‘Provisional’ status; two UNS progress reports result in dismissal from the program.

Find a PhD Supervisor

View our available PhD supervisors and explore their biographies and research areas of interest.