News

Celebrating three decades of the Doctor of Design program

Since the founding of the Harvard Graduate School of Design’s Doctor of Design (DDes) program in 1987, the program’s students, faculty, and alumni have exemplified the program’s core missions: to foster cutting-edge thought, research, discourse, applying design research as a mode of inquiry and empowerment for action, and doing so with a multidisciplinary spirit. Now, on the eve of the program’s 30th anniversary, the GSD is celebrating the achievements of DDes alumni, students, and faculty with a weekend program of lectures, panels, and celebrations this April.

The DDes program has occupied a unique and vital role within the GSD’s broader intellectual project. Now directed by Kumagai Professor of Architectural Technology Martin Bechthold (DDes ’01), the program has grown in depth and breadth over its 30-year history while maintaining its intimacy of discourse and collaboration. The curriculum of a DDes student is highly customized according to their respective research topics. It is geared towards completion in three years, but students are able to extend their studies beyond that if needed.

As the GSD’s commitment to research innovation has deepened, the DDes program has remained a nexus of research and investigation in a broad range of theoretical, applied, and technological topics that lie at the cutting edge of applied-design investigation. Typical research areas within the program have included studies in urban design and theory, landscape urbanism, material systems, design computation, and building technologies. Thesis projects have investigated more specific issues within individual or combined research areas and are often interdisciplinary in nature, involving faculty and resources from other graduate schools at Harvard. (To learn more about the GSD’s current cohort of DDes students and their research interests, visit the student bios webpage.)

Common to the diverse range of DDes research investigations, though, is the belief that design research makes essential contributions to understanding, analyzing and ultimately improving the built environment in our increasingly complex world.

The DDes program’s 30th anniversary celebration begins on Friday, April 21 at the GSD, with an evening “pecha kucha”-style discussion featuring current DDes students and a keynote address by Peter Rowe, Raymond Garbe Professor of Architecture and Urban Design and Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor. The program for Saturday, April 22 features a range of discussions, tours, and other festivities.

To learn more about the DDes program, including curriculum, research areas, and admissions, visit the program page. To learn more about and register for the 30th anniversary celebration, visit the event page. To learn more about the GSD’s current cohort of DDes students, visit the student bios page.