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TMU launches PhD in architecture with a focus on design

New approach aims to reimagine what’s possible in architecture
By: Jess Leach
March 12, 2024
Architectural Science students work in the studio space in the architecture building.

TMU will soon welcome students to a new PhD in architecture. Applications to the program are now open. Photo: Christopher Manson

TMU is now accepting applications for a new PhD program in architecture, promising a revolutionary approach to architectural research, the first of its kind in Canada.

Professor Lisa Landrum, chair of TMU's Department of Architectural Science, says the innovative program will emphasize design as a primary mode of scholarly inquiry.

"This is the only PhD in Canada that truly centres the design process as a form of research," Landrum said. While similar programs exist internationally, such as at Harvard University and the University College London, TMU's PhD in architecture is the first of its kind across the country to focus on design-driven research. 

"The premise is that the research happens through design as a multifaceted mode of discovery," Landrum said. "So architectural design processes serve as both the subject and method of research itself." 

PhD students will investigate a wide range of topics and techniques, from drawing and modeling,to interactive installations and prototypes, to embodied and enactive performances.

Those working in the architecture industry are looking forward to seeing the impacts of this new approach, citing societal changes as an opportunity to engage in new ways of thinking.

“We are in a period of massive societal and environmental change that requires architects to challenge existing paradigms and methods,” said Andrew Frontini, design director at Perkins&Will Toronto. “We need new materials, new technologies and new insights into what constitutes good architecture. We conduct research to develop new approaches but also to measure the impact of what we have already built.” 

Others see this PhD approach as an opportunity for professionals to engage with the growing theme of design as activism. “Research through design is critical to advancing the field and responding to challenges,” said Andrew King, principal at AK A Fldwrk. “Through experimental and applied research, TMU’s PhD in architecture will help reshape design processes and potential.”

The city is a laboratory

The TMU PhD program is also centred around tangible outcomes. Landrum says that prospective exhibitions, full-scale installations, interactive environments, and prototypes will pop-up across and beyond Toronto as forms of active scholarship and public engagement.

"The city itself is a lively laboratory," she said. 

The ideal candidates for the program are curious, experimental individuals who are committed to rigorous inquiry and transforming the architectural profession for the good, said Landrum.

"This doctoral program will become an invigorating force for the discipline and a forum for reimagining what's possible in architecture."

The Department of Architectural Science will welcome its inaugural cohort of PhD students in fall 2024. 

For more information on the program and how to apply, visit the Architectural Science website.

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