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Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture and Design Research, Architecture Track

Ph.D., based at Blacksburg Campus + Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center (WAAC)

people listening to a presentation in a classroom

Degree Tracks within the Ph.D. in Architecture and Design Research program

There are two major tracks within the Ph.D. in Architecture and Design Research degree program, each of which has topical areas. The requirements for the tracks vary slightly, but both provide significant flexibility for each student to develop a plan of study consistent with his or her academic goals. The two tracks are Architecture and Design Research.

Architecture Track

The Architecture track within the Ph.D program in Architecture and Design Research includes research topics in Architectural Representation and Education, Architectural History and Theory, Historic Preservation, and Computing and Representation.

The Architecture track will share resources on the Blacksburg Campus and the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center in the National Capital Region (NCR). At the latter location, students can make use of the many research libraries available in the Washington, DC area, including the Library of Congress, National Building Museum library, American Institute of Architects Library, CASVA, Smithsonian Institution, the Dumbarton Oaks Library and many privately-owned architectural archives to develop their topics in architectural representation.

Design Research Track

The Design Research track within the Ph.D. program in Architecture and Design Research primarily operates on the Blacksburg campus. Principal focus areas within the Design Research track are Building Science, Interior Design, Industrial Design, and Landscape Architecture. Other areas of study include those outlined in the MS degree, History/Theory/Criticism, Health and Wellness Design, Social Impact Design, Biodesign, and Design Technology. Over the past fifteen years, the number of students and diversity of research activities in the Design Research track has steadily grown resulting in an internationally recognized program. Admission to the program is highly competitive with only a few admissions offered each year.

Architectural Acoustics focus

The Architectural Acoustics focus within the architecture program at Virginia Tech engages acoustics under the umbrella of design. The program encourages students to bring issues of room acoustics, speech privacy, and noise control into their design studios and into their careers, and involves students in individually-tailored rigorous research in the field.

Architectural Acoustics students are encouraged to integrate their class work with their design studio work. Academic study centers around understanding the relationship between the built world and sound, calculating and predicting acoustic performance of spaces, and executing acoustic measurements (impulse response, reverberation time, background noise, and sound transmission loss). The College’s Architectural Acoustics Laboratory houses equipment capable of taking acoustic measurements in rooms, simulating acoustic environments and analyzing the acoustic character of computer-modeled and scale-modeled rooms.

Those interested in learning more about the curriculum, discussing the body of research investigated, or speaking with students who have completed their study in architectural acoustics are encouraged to contact Prof. Michael Ermann by email or at 540.231.1225.


The faculty are seeking to admit a highly selective group of students who have master’s degrees in closely allied fields, such as Architecture, Environmental Design, Building Science, Landscape Architecture, Architecture History and Theory, Interior Design, and Industrial Design. In addition to the application requirements of the Virginia Tech Graduate School and those pertaining to all graduate programs within the School of Architecture and School of Design, applicants to the Ph.D. degree in Architecture and Design Research must submit a portfolio and a 2,500-word statement of research focus. Students are encouraged to contact members of the faculty with whom their interests and research focus area align.

Degree Requirements for the Ph.D. in Architecture and Design Research:

  • The Graduate School requires each Ph.D. student to complete 90 semester hours of graduate study and dissertation.

  • All students, regardless of area of specialization, are required to complete a sequence of specific Architecture and Design Seminars. A two-semester sequence seminar will focus primarily on epistemology and the nature of discipline and practice of architecture, viewed in the context of architecture and the allied fields. Students will also enroll in a continuing seminar course required every semester of residence. In these seminars, Ph.D. students, the School faculty involved with the graduate program, and possible guests present their own research for critical review and feedback. The Ph.D. students in the Architecture track must also pass a test of reading ability in a foreign language related to their selected topics (native languages and English do not fulfill this requirement).

  • In addition, all students must complete a special Research Methods course organized by area of specialization. At the approval of the student’s advisory committee, the course may be also taken in the other area of specialization or outside of the school.