Architecture School receives Ph.D. applications

When the Yale School of Architecture developed a doctoral of philosophy last year, it was the only institution of its kind not to offer a Ph.D program.

Faculty began reviewing the first ever set of applications to the doctoral program this month. And as they prepare to admit their first class of doctoral candidates next month, deans and professors remarked upon the advantages of the new program.

While the school did not release official data on the number of applications received, Director of Graduate Studies Kurt Forster said the application pool would allow the school to accept about one in 10 of all applicants. He added that the school planned to accept three or four candidates, although this number is “not set in stone.”

The five-year program, which the school will offer for the first time in the 2009-’10 academic year, will inaugurate a study of the history and criticism of architecture that aims to connect professional knowledge with an analytical understanding of key issues. The program will prepare candidates “for careers in university teaching, cultural advocacy and administration, museum curatorship and publishing,” according to the school’s Web site.

School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65 said faculty and interested students persuaded him of the importance of initiating the program.

“We were the only architecture school of any consequence without a Ph.D. program,” Stern said in an interview with the News. “We felt that we were not fulfilling our academic responsibility by not offering one.”

Harvard Graduate School of Design, Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture and Planning, and Princeton University School of Architecture all offer doctoral programs.

Graduate School Dean Jon Butler said the Ph.D program would contribute to the intellectual and dynamic relationship between architecture and other disciplines within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

“It will expand the reach of architecture into a number of areas such as history of art, cultural history and economics that are critical to understanding how architecture functions as a discipline and in society,” Butler said.

One of the requirements of Yale’s doctoral program is that all applicants have at least two years of work experience in an appropriate professional setting. Forster said the program aims to create architects who are also thinkers.

“We want to nurture young people who are able to explain their reasoning and thoughts besides designing buildings,” he said.

School of Architecture professor Peter Eisenman pointed out the increasing demand for higher degrees in the architecture world today.

“In the past, architecture focused on its mission of creating professionals,” Eisenman said. “What is happening in architecture now is that in order to be influential in academia you need to have an advanced degree. All European Union schools require a doctorate and many more Europeans are applying to us now. We were missing out on this.”

He added that the current economic crisis might bolster interest in graduate school.

Matthew Roman ARC ’09 said he might be interested in applying for a doctorate later in his career.

“A Ph.D. is not considered necessary for the majority of practicing architects,” Roman said. “But it is important to explore issues to a higher degree, which you can’t do in professional practice.”

When launching the doctoral program, the school also considered how the program would enhance the intellectual atmosphere by attracting visiting scholars, postgraduate students and speakers for lecture series and symposia.

“This will change the whole tone and tenor of the school and give it a more intellectual bias,” Eisenman said.

While the majority of the professors presently teaching at the School of Architecture do not have doctorates, Eisenman said the School of Architecture has one of the highest ratios of faculty with doctorates in the country.

The school will post acceptances in late February and early March, along with other professional and graduate programs at the University.

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