PhD in Architecture, Landscape, and Design


The Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture, Landscape, and Design (ALD PhD) at the Daniels Faculty is a rigorous interdisciplinary program that trains students to pursue research of the highest academic standard across a spectrum of built environmental practices.  

Through our highly adaptable curriculum—one that is unlike other PhD programs in architecture—the program enables students to pursue study independently and to share their research with the Daniels community at every stage. ALD PhD students explore methodologies across our disciplines, ranging from theoretical to applied research in design, history theory, building science, and visual studies.

We help students work across disciplines, to familiarize themselves with broad knowledge areas that will equip them to address contemporary scholarly, political, economic, and policy problems. Students may elect to advance academic scholarship while also creating new models of research-based practice that can be implemented in real world settings. We encourage graduates to transcend current disciplinary boundaries and position them to engage and lead emerging discussions outside and between specific design disciplines.  

Whether focusing on the displacement of coastal dwellers because of project sea level rises, refugee crises produced by political unrest, or cities in need as water becomes an increasingly scarce resource, the engagements of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design students are increasingly complex and warrant creative design, critical thinking, and ethical action guided by innovative advanced research. The challenges facing constructed environments in the 21st century push us beyond existing disciplinary lines to seek synergies among our fields—building science and engineering, computation and fabrication, health and society, history and theory, technology and environment—and to develop these synergies in tandem with emergent fields like artificial intelligence, Black studies, climate justice, community-based knowledge practice, forensic architecture, gender studies, indigenous studies, sustainability, critical whiteness studies and many others.  

The Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture, Landscape, and Design goes beyond the traditional divide between applied and theoretical knowledge, bringing the two together to develop rigorous yet activist knowledge practices commensurate with present needs. The ALD PhD program is intended for students with aspirations to become active researchers and/or educators, work in government and industry, conduct research within design firms, or become community activists dedicated to meaningful social change through built environmental action. 

University of Toronto

In addition to our core PhD faculty, affiliated faculty with expertise in design problems from multiple disciplinary perspectives are directly involved in the life of the program. These faculty members are primarily housed in schools and departments across the University of Toronto, yet they also supervise ALD PhD students. 

Students in the PhD program have opportunities to work with a wide range of institutions within and beyond the University: the Jackman Humanities Institute, the Global Cities Institute, the Munk School of Global Affairs, the School of the Environment, the Department of Geography and Planning, the School of Engineering, the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the rich array of universities in and near Toronto. 


Required coursework includes a colloquium and a methods course in the first year. The second year is primarily dedicated to a practicum and dissertation proposal preparation, which commences in the third year. Our funding package covers students for four years of full-time study and assists those who need additional years to find external grants to fund their program of study. 

The PhD in Architecture, Landscape & Design requirements include:

  • Coursework (6.0 FCE, including 4.0 FCE in electives and four required PhD courses: ALD4030H: Doctoral Research Colloquium; ALD4040H: Theories and Methods; ALD4050H: Research Practicum; and ALD4060H: Preparation for Thesis)
  • A two-part comprehensive exam testing breadth after 18 months and depth after 24 months
  • Successful defense of a dissertation proposal
  • Written dissertation
  • Successful doctoral final oral examination

(Note: Additional courses or examination requirements may be necessary based upon faculty advisement.)

The program includes the following minimum required courses:

  • (ALD 4030H 0.5 FCE) Doctoral Research Colloquium: Research in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, urbanism, and design takes many forms and produces distinct areas of inquiry. This course brings together PhD students and students from the post-professional programs to encourage an intradisciplinary discussion of their unique research methods, and to support cohort building and a strong sense of community amongst students. The course will be team taught by thesis supervisors in the proposed PhD program.
  • (ALD 4040H 0.5 FCE) Theories and Methods: In this course, PhD students will explore theories and methods that have guided different disciplines in order to focus more narrowly on the unique approaches of their chosen field of study.

The program also requires participation in two doctoral research colloquia:

  • (ALD 4050H) Research Practicum: The practicum generally results in a long research paper. This requirement enables students to conduct independent research on a limited scale at the level of quality expected for a dissertation, although the resulting paper is much shorter in length. The research should be comparable to that which results in a publishable article. Based on a consultation with their advisor, the practicum may take on one of several forms, including but not limited to:   i. A self-contained paper or empirical study of publishable quality that may or may not be a component of dissertation work.
      ii. The development of a theoretical model upon which the dissertation is to be based.
      iii. A proposal for pilot research in the student’s dissertation area that includes a focused literature review, research design, and protocol.
  • (ALD 4060H) Preparation for Thesis: Independent thesis research in preparation for the general exams or dissertation proposal.

Elective Requirements

The remaining required minimum 3.0 FCE (six half-credit courses) are electives to be selected from advanced (3XXX series) graduate level courses offered at the Daniels or advanced graduate courses in cognate disciplines across the University of Toronto pending the approval of the Faculty. The student’s program of study will be determined in consultation with his or her supervisory committee and approved by the committee.


The required courses listed above ground a student’s core experience in the doctoral program and provide the student cohort with a common learning experience. This pedagogical approach will expose students to methods of research and analysis that will provide intersections between the cultural-historical and the technical-professional knowledge that are not afforded in other academic disciplines with claims upon the built environment.

Electives—whether taken within the Daniels Faculty or in other University of Toronto programs—must be selected in consultation with each student’s assigned faculty advisor. Depending upon a student’s desired area of specialization, faculty advisors may require study in foreign languages, technical skills, historical periods, or research methods.

All graduate students at the University of Toronto must complete all of their course requirements at the graduate level.

Term 1

ALD 4030H: Doctoral Research Colloquium

Term 2

ALD 4040H: Theories and Methods

Term 3

Comprehensive Examinations

Term 4

ALD 4050H: Research Practicum

Term 5

Comprehensive Examinations

Term 6

ALD 4060H: Preparation for Thesis

Term 7+

Dissertation Proposal

Dissertation Proposal

Each student’s dissertation proposal should outline the main argument, rationale for supporting the prospective dissertation, a summary of existing research on the topic, a case for the originality of the research, and a schedule for research activities. The proposal will be circulated among the PhD supervisory committee for commentary and approval, and the student must present the proposal to the committee and potential additional faculty members for comment and advice. No later than the beginning of the third year of study, the student must submit to the director of the PhD program an approved proposal. An approved proposal signed by all members of the supervisory committee and the director must be submitted to the University of Toronto School of Graduate Studies PhD office.

Achieving Candidacy

Doctoral candidacy is achieved when all requirements listed above for the PhD except for the dissertation are met.


The student and supervisor(s) should meet regularly and must meet at least once per year. By the end of the fourth year, the student should complete a dissertation based on original research that makes a significant contribution to the field. The supervisory committee must approve the completed dissertation before it is submitted to oral examination following School of Graduate Studies standards.

Core Faculty

Claire Zimmerman, Associate Professor, Daniels Faculty
Director, PhD in Architecture, Landscape, and Design

Architectural History and Theory

Christy Anderson, Professor, Renaissance and Baroque Architecture History of Art, Graduate Department of Art and the Daniels Faculty

Aleksandr Bierig, Assistant Professor, Daniels Faculty

John Harwood, Associate Professor, Daniels Faculty

Mary Lou Lobsinger, Associate Professor, Daniels Faculty

Jason Nguyen, Assistant Professor, Daniels Faculty

John Robinson, Professor, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, School of the Environment, and the Daniels Faculty

Peter Sealy, Assistant Professor, Daniels Faculty

Landscape History and Theory

Georges Farhat, Associate Professor, Daniels Faculty

Mark Laird, Associate Professor, Daniels Faculty

Urbanism / Urban Design

Patricia L. McCarney, Associate Professor, Director, Global Cities Institute Department of Political Science, the Daniels Faculty, and the Global Cities Institute

John Robinson, Professor, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, School of the Environment, and the Daniels Faculty

Building Science/Computation

Alstan Jakubiec, Assistant Professor, Daniels Faculty

Ted Kesik, Professor of Building Science, Daniels Faculty

Bomani Khemet, Assistant Professor, Daniels Faculty

Brady Peters, Assistant Professor, Daniels Faculty

Maria Yablonina, Assistant Professor, Daniels Faculty

Architecture, Health and Society

Stephen Verderber, Professor, Daniels Faculty and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Visual Studies

Mitchell Akiyama, Assistant Professor, Daniels Faculty

Zach Blas, Assistant Professor, Daniels Faculty

Affiliated Faculty

Joseph Clarke, Assistant Professor, Modern Architecture History of Art, Graduate Department of Art

Jennifer Drake, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering

Paul Hess, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Planning

Heba Mostafa, Assistant Professor, Islamic Art and Architecture History of Art, Graduate Department of Art

Matti Siemiatycki, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Planning

Simon Stern, Associate Professor & Co-Director, Centre for Innovation Law & Policy, Faculty of Law

Marianne Touchie, Assistant Professor, Departments of Civil & Mineral Engineering and Mechanical & Industrial Engineering

Chen-Pang Yeang, Associate Professor and Director, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology


As a leading research institution, the University of Toronto depends largely on our success in recruiting outstanding graduate students and enabling them to realize their potential. This means providing financial resources so that students can focus on their studies and complete their degrees in a timely manner.

Towards this aim, the Daniels Faculty provides PhD students with a base funding commitment of $19,500 plus tuition and fees. This funding commitment is valid for a maximum of four years.

Students receive their funding commitment in annual funding packages. These packages may be composed of a variety of funding sources, including:

  • The University of Toronto Fellowship (UTF)
  • Research Stipends and Research Assistantships
  • Teaching Assistantships, in accordance with CUPE Collective Agreement
  • Internal Awards and Grants
  • External funding sources* (e.g., federal Tri-Agency awards and provincial scholarships)

International students receive support at a higher level in recognition of the costs associated with the differential in fees (e.g., UHIP). On an annual basis, students will receive a funding letter outlining the composition, timing, and disbursement of their funding package.

Current Students

Kanwal Aftab
Aftab’s research looks at the pedagogical influence of systems thinking and systems art on environmental design professions in the second half of the twentieth century.

James Bird
Researching the Intersection of Dënesųłiné linguistics and shape forming: This research explores diverse built forms and strategies by examining the use of language as an entry point. Creating alternative viewpoints that assign agency to the metaphysical aspects that exist within Indigenous languages and culture is one of the key premises of this research. James proposes to explore this relationship between language and built form by using the ontological relationships that lie within language morphemes.

Yeo-Jin Katerina Bong
Yeo-Jin Katerina Bong is a specialist in early modern Italian architecture (1450-1650) with the aim of writing an expanded history of Renaissance building engineering. Her dissertation looks at the role of ‘defects’ in the process of construction—from materials, foundations, to structure—as described in architectural treatises of this period. Her secondary research probes the cross-cultural relationship between European and Asian architectural drawing. She is currently the Diamonstein-Spielvogel fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Zheming (Taro) Cai
Zheming (Taro) Cai’s research is centered on the production and dissemination of knowledge, cultural landscapes, landscape infrastructure, and critical heritage studies. His doctoral work delves into the transnational development of landscape architecture as a professional discipline in the People’s Republic of China. Cai serves as an executive editor and a co-host for a column at Landscape Architecture Frontiers. Additionally, he is a Junior Fellow at the Massey College and a Junior Fellow affiliated with the Committee of Theories and Histories within the Chinese Society of Landscape Architecture.

Josh Elliott
Elliot’s current research concerns the processes by which notions of globalization, and globality more generally, found their way into architectural discourse during the "long 1990s" (1989-2003). Key subtopics include the role of Japan in shaping early discourses of globality in architecture, and the influence of globality discourses on design practice.

Katie Filek
Filek’s research looks at the transnational circulation of architectural knowledge in the twentieth century. In particular, she is interested in transnationalism in Canadian architecture in the postwar period, and how foreign expertise was introduced, circulated, and translated through media and through local professional and material conditions. Postwar connections between Canada and Italy offer a key case study.

Nazanin GanjehZadeh 
Nazanin is passionate about the relationship between architectural design and human wellbeing. Her research focuses on examining the impact of light on health, sleep patterns, and circadian rhythms. Utilizing sensor-based and simulation technology, her work aims to understand how daily light exposure affects mood, cognitive performance, and overall health. Her research evaluates existing lighting standards through the lens of daily life by understanding how real-world conditions interact with human well-being. 

Qingyun Lin
Lin’s research interest lies broadly in the area of urban informality and community resilience with a focus on informal settlements located in southern China. She is interested in mechanisms of self-organized activities/illegal construction and their external interaction with formal urbanism. Lin also has a deep interest in community development and risk management for areas facing a triple dilemma of sudden disasters, extreme housing density, and poor infrastructure.

Ai Liu
Ai Liu is interested in the topics of affordable housing, urban informality, and bottom-up community building, with a current focus on the subdivided units in Hong Kong. She hopes to combine interdisciplinary theories, experimental design practice as well as possible actions, to create a new way of dialogue.

John Nguyen
Nguyen’s research interest resides at the intersection of architecture and performance-based design. His current projects investigate how computer simulations can elevate design processes rather than being a compromised coexistence of design and technology. Nguyen is currently exploring the topic of parametric acoustics in architecture with a focus on metamaterials and toolkit development. His previous research investigations were related to Computational Fluid Dynamics and Genetic Algorithms.

Fion Ouyang
Grounded in architecture and building science, Fion is interested in the effects of building performance on human well-being. Specifically, she focuses on architectural design strategies with emphasis on human comfort and performance simulation. Through appropriate use of daylight, she aims to develop design strategies to optimize our indoor environments to enhance occupant health and quality of life. Fion is currently researching and evaluating the performance of daylight metrics.  

Anna Renken
Renken’s research focuses on concepts of nature and approaches to the environment in architecture and design since the mid-twentieth century. She is particularly interested in how designers have collaborated with and learned from environmental scientists.

Brian Slocum
Prior to beginning his doctoral studies, Brian was a practicing architect and Adjunct Professor at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. He served on the board of the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) and co-chaired its 2018 and 2020 conferences. His research focuses on computational technologies in architecture—specifically robotics—examined through the lens of queer theory. Understanding queerness as another type of technology, Brian looks for ways it might complement more traditional architectural robotics building practices, toward the literal and rhetorical dismantling of normative structures.

Kachun Alex Wong
Kachun Alex Wong has earned degrees from Columbia University and the University of Hong Kong (HKU). He was previously a research assistant at the Urban Ecologies Design Lab, HKU. His research lies in the intersection of architecture and law. His dissertation project investigates building code and informal settlements in the New Territories, Hong Kong, critical theories of liberalism and colonial customary law, and anti-sexist, -ableist, and -agist practices of care.