The School of Architecture, Princeton’s center for teaching and research in architectural design, history, and theory, offers advanced degrees at both the master’s and the doctoral levels. The curriculum for the master’s degree, which has both a professional and a post-professional track, emphasizes design expertise in the context of architectural scholarship. Architecture is understood as a cultural practice involving both speculative intelligence and practical know-how. Each student constructs a personal course of study around a core of required courses that represents the knowledge essential to the education of an architect today.
The five-year doctoral program focuses on the history, theory, and criticism of architecture, urbanism, landscape, and building technology. The approach is interdisciplinary, covering a broad range of research interests from an architectural perspective. Working closely with the faculty of the school and allied departments in the University, students build individual programs of study involving at least two years of course work, general examinations, and a dissertation.
In 2014, the School of Architecture launched a new computation and energy Ph.D. track. The new track focuses on developing and researching new techniques of embodied computation and new systems for energy and environmental performance. It is supported by connections to the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Department of Computer Science and the Andlinger Center for Energy and Environment. With the addition of new courses and curricula for the computation and energy track, and with the acquisition of industrial robotic arms and the renovation of the Embodied Computation Laboratory (also known as the Architectural Laboratory), students will actively contribute to hands-on applied research in architecture while becoming experts in their field.
Ph.D. – At least three samples of written work published or unpublished. In the statement of academic purpose, candidates must describe professional and academic experience and its relevance to future plans for research and teaching. Also outline potential areas of research in the context of Princeton’s program. Applicants are required to select a subplan when applying.
M.Arch. – Design portfolio, bound, not to exceed 8.5" x 11", no slides, CDs, or loose sheets. Portfolios of admitted applicants will be retained. An electronic version of this portfolio must also be uploaded with the application.
Portfolios must be postmarked by January 4 and received by January 12. Please note: If you are tracking the delivery of your package, Graduate Admission will be closed December 24 - January 4. Normal hours will resume on Monday, January 4.
Please avoid special packaging as this delays the processing of your materials, and does not increase your opportunity for admission. Be sure to include your full name, date of birth, and department on all materials sent. Please mail these materials to:
One Clio Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544
Materials submitted will become the property of Princeton University.
History and Theory Track
The interdisciplinary nature of the doctoral (Ph.D.) program stresses the relationship of architecture, urbanism, landscape, and building technologies to their cultural, social, and political milieu. Supported by strong affiliations with other departments in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences, the program has developed a comprehensive approach to the study of the field. Students interact with their peers to sustain their individual projects in a context of collective research.
Computation and Energy Track
The technology Ph.D. track develops research in the field of embodied computation and new systems for energy and environmental performance. Through associated faculty it is linked to the School of Engineering and Applied Science, particularly with Computer Science and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. A proseminar for the Ph.D. track supports the initial methods and processes for this research. The applied research component of the track is supported by infrastructure including an industrial robotic arm located in the School of Architecture’s Embodied Computation Lab and research facilities in the Andlinger Center.
History and Theory Track
Course requirements for each student are determined by the Ph.D. Program Committee according to students’ previous experience, specialized interests, and progress through the program. For the first two years, each student engages in course work and independent study and is required to take a minimum of four classes each term, including required language and independent reading courses, for a total of 16 courses.
In the first year of residence, a required two-term proseminar introduces students to historical research and methodological approaches and guides the development of individual research proposals. The minimum number of courses are reduced by one when a student serves as an assistant-in-instruction (AI). This does not reduce the number of required papers; the AI assignment replaces an audited course.
Computation and Energy Track
Course requirements for each student are determined by the Ph.D. Program Committee according to the student’s previous experience, specialized interests, and progress through the program. During the first year of residence, a two-term proseminar introduces students to the process of developing prototype-based research, the literature review process, and methods for innovative scientific hypothesis generation and analysis. It also guides the development of individual research proposals. The course requirements for each student are set by the Ph.D. Program Committee according to the student’s previous experience, specialized interests, and progress through the program. The course load consists of a total of sixteen courses, nine of which have to be taken for credit, including two required proseminar courses during the first two years of study. Extending the reach of previous coursework, four research projects have to be developed, documented in paper format, and submitted as a package for the general examination once coursework is completed. The coursework must have an interdisciplinary focus that supports the student in developing expertise in an area of research as an extension of the architectural core that serves as the basis for developing a dissertation proposal.
A student must satisfy the program requirement of a reading knowledge of two foreign languages before the end of the second year in residence. These languages should be relevant to the general history of the discipline or specifically relevant to the student’s area of research. An examination of comprehension is administered by the appropriate language department.
Each year in mid-May, doctoral students are expected to present a progress report for review with the Ph.D. Program Committee. The purpose of these oral reviews is to give feedback to the student and to keep all members of the Ph.D. Committee informed about the work of all students. The progress report should list courses taken for grades or audit, papers completed or in progress, grades received, and a description of how courses relate to the student’s major and minor fields of concentration. The report should also note conferences attended, lectures given, teaching and/or research assistantships. Second-year reports incorporate a prospectus on the materials to be included in the general examination dossier. The prospectus includes a list of six papers (History and Theory track) or four research project reports (Computation and Energy track) to be included in the general examination dossier accompanied by a statement connecting this research and writing to the student’s major and minor fields of concentration.
The general examination is designed to ascertain the student’s general knowledge of the subject, acquaintance with scholarly methods of research, and ability to organize and present material. The components of the general examination are assembled sequentially during the student’s period in residence, according to a program overseen and approved by the Ph.D. Program Committee. The general examination is normally taken upon completion of two years of course work (preferably in the fall of the third year in residence).
Students begin this process by requesting that the examination be held and submitting a list of suggested committee members. The next step is the preparation of a dossier of six papers (History and Theory track) or four project papers (Computation and Energy track) to be presented by the student, including at least one research paper in the area of the dissertation topic and a short (one- or two-page) outline of the intended dissertation topic. The research paper must clearly define the field of research; it must comment on the state of existing research in the selected field and explain the contribution to the field that the paper is making. It must make a coherent statement about the archival sources or theoretical objects under examination and the methodological approaches taken. The research paper is either devoted to archival research, or encompasses an original theoretical exploration. An annotated bibliography must be included. For the Computation and Energy track, the research paper is to be developed into an academic paper at a level of submission to peer-reviewed scientific journals. For the History and Theory track, a paper in the generals package can be replaced with an annotated bibliography, accompanied by an introductory essay. The bibliography will outline a focused historico-theoretical field in the area of the intended dissertation.
The general examination itself is conducted in two parts: a satisfactory oral defense, and the acceptance by the committee of the dissertation proposal, followed by a public presentation. The oral defense is scheduled after the examination committee has read and reviewed the papers, and confirmed that the language requirement is satisfied and that no incompletes or failing grades appear on the student’s record. Following the successful completion of the oral defense, and within a period of two to three weeks, the student selects a primary dissertation adviser from among the Ph.D. Program Committee to guide the dissertation research. The assignment of the adviser is subject to approval by the Ph.D. Program Committee. The student works with the dissertation adviser to develop a detailed proposal that clearly defines the field of research, comments on the state of existing research in the selected field, and explains the contributions to the field the dissertation will make.
The student presents the dissertation proposal within six months of completion of the general exam. After the successful public presentation of the proposal, the examination committee discusses the proposal and other relevant aspects of the program with the student. Successful completion of the two parts of the general examination signals the transition to supervised independent scholarly work on a topic of the student’s choosing.
The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is typically an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy and is earned after a student successfully completes the general examination. It may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program after successfully completing the general exam.
Teaching experience is considered to be a significant part of graduate education. The School recommends that Ph.D. candidates serve as Assistants-in-instruction (AI) for at least one term.
Following the general exam, students meet with the Ph.D. Program Committee each spring. These reviews provide opportunities for all members of the Ph.D. Committee to review progress and provide feedback. Students submit a progress report describing publications, conferences attended, lectures given, teaching or research assistantships completed. The report also includes progress on dissertation writing, funding applications, etc. At least one new dissertation chapter must be submitted in each of the post-generals years.
The culmination of the program is the defense of the finished dissertation at the final public oral (FPO) examination, which includes the thesis adviser, a second reader from the Ph.D. Committee, and a third internal or external reader. For full FPO committe compostion requirements, please consult the Graduate School website.
Advisers read and comment on initial drafts of the student’s dissertation, consult on methods and sources, and approve any changes in the dissertation outline stemming from research discoveries and shifting emphases. The School often recommends that additional readers from inside or outside the School review sections of the research. The research toward a dissertation normally includes at least one year spent on archival research.
The Ph.D. is awarded after the candidate’s doctoral dissertation has been accepted and the final public oral examination completed.
Professional Master’s Degree
The Master of Architecture (M.Arch.), accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), is intended for students who plan to practice architecture professionally. The M.Arch. qualifies students to take the state professional licensing examination after completing the required internship. Refer to the NAAB statement on the School of Architecture’s website for more information.
Students are eligible for admission to the graduate program whether or not they have had undergraduate work in architecture. The typical duration of the program is three years; students with an intensive undergraduate architecture background may be eligible for advanced standing.
Post-Professional Master’s Degree
A post-professional M.Arch. degree is available to those who hold the degree of Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) or its equivalent from an international institution. These are students who have successfully completed a professional program in architecture and have fulfilled the educational requirements for professional licensing in the state or country in which the degree was granted. Students typically complete this program in two years. The post-professional degree is not accredited by the NAAB.
Students in the professional M.Arch. program must take a minimum of 25 courses, typically four per term, including one design studio each term and the independent design thesis in the final term. The studio sequence, required building technology and professional practice courses, and courses in history and theory of architecture and urbanism constitute a core knowledge of the discipline. In addition to these required courses, each student must complete distribution requirements within the areas of history and theory and building technology. In order to encourage the development of an individual program of study, each student may select up to three electives, which may be fulfilled with any course offered within the University and approved by the director of graduate studies.
Students granted advanced standing are usually required to take a minimum of 16 courses within the distributional requirements of the three-year program, including one design studio each term and the independent design thesis in the final term. Because of the differences in the educational backgrounds of students entering with advanced standing, the required number of courses in the areas of distribution is determined by the director of graduate studies after reviewing each student’s transcript and experience.
While students normally take four courses each term, in their final term of the program they may enroll in and complete as few as two courses, provided that total course requirements will still be met and additional time is needed in the final term to meet the specific research requirements of the thesis. Students who wish to enroll in fewer than four courses in the final term must have this request reviewed and approved by the director of graduate studies.
Students in the post-professional master’s degree program are granted wide latitude in course selection in order to create a program of study which aligns with their individual educational and research goals. The courses are distributed across the areas of design studios and a design thesis, history and theory, building technology, and elective courses that can be taken throughout the University with the approval of the director of graduate studies. Students are required to complete a minimum of 14 courses.
The thesis at Princeton is understood to be the culmination of the Master of Architecture curriculum. As such, it is the moment when the student contributes to, and advances, the discipline. Students participate in a thesis workshop during their penultimate semester. The aim of this workshop is to hone topics by situating them within a lineage—articulating where a project resembles or differs from works that have addressed such topics—and by developing a focused argument for a particular approach to the question. The thesis design project, conducted as independent work during the final semester, then tests this approach in a project whose underpinnings are pointed toward the synthesis of intellectual and design objectives. The thesis concludes with a public final review, where the project is evaluated both on its own terms and within the broader field of contemporary architectural discourse.
Students in the Architecture program are strongly encouraged to own a Windows or Mac computer during their tenure. The School of Architecture does provide 12 high-end Dell Desktops and 4 iMacs in the computer lab with a full suite of software. Recommendations for personal computer purchases include a minimum 512 SSD hard drive, 16GB RAM, decent graphics card and processor. Computers should have the most updated operating systems with virus software installed. Most software provided by the School of Architecture is via network distribution and is Windows based. In addition, students are required to pay an annual $350 lab fee for access to the computers, plotters, printer, scanners and networked software.
Monica Ponce de Leon
Director of Graduate Studies
Beatriz Colomina, Ph.D. program
Michael Meredith, M.Arch, professional program (fall 2019)
Marshall Brown, M.Arch, professional program (spring 2020)
Jesse A. Reiser, M.Arch, post-professional program
Stanley T. Allen
M. Christine Boyer
Mario I. Gandelsonas
Guy J. P. Nordenson
Jesse A. Reiser
Marshall B. Brown
Erin D. Besler
V. Mitch McEwen
Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.