All Academic Programs

History and Philosophy of Design

History and Philosophy of Design is a platform for scholarly inquiry into design in the disciplines of architecture, urbanism and landscape architecture and in other aesthetic, spatial and technological practices. The aim of the program is to advance design knowledge through historical research into social, cultural and political contexts, through theoretical explorations, and through the formulation of critical perspectives.

The program is directed toward individuals for whom the advanced study of topics in the History and Philosophy of Design will lead to subsequent work in the development and dissemination of design knowledge. The program provides a thorough preparation for the subsequent pursuit of the PhD degree in the histories of design, architecture, urbanism or landscape architecture, or in the many adjacent fields that incorporate the study of the built environment. The program is also suited to practitioners who are or will be involved in academia or contexts outside professional practice requiring research in historical or theoretical topics. The program also provides an intellectual training for individuals who intend to pursue careers in criticism, media or curatorship in established institutional settings or in newly emerging forms.

The three-semester program is structured around a curriculum consisting of seminars and lectures taught by the history/theory faculty of the GSD. Course topics taught by this faculty include history of art and architecture, history of modern urbanism, the history of science and technology in design, modern landscapes and territories, experimental design practices and many others. The curriculum culminates with an individual research project defined by the student in consultation with advisors. During their residence, students in this MDesS program have access to an unparalleled array of resources, at the GSD and throughout Harvard University. The study of architecture, urbanism and landscape architecture has a natural affinity with courses offered in departments such as History of Science, Visual and Environmental Studies, History, Anthropology, Literature and others. In addition, there are many dedicated centers at Harvard such as the Humanities Center at Harvard, the Laboratory at Harvard, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, that are a venue for conversations among scholars at Harvard and internationally, hosting speakers, seminars, workshops and conferences. Together with the numerous activities at the GSD, these events provide a diverse and stimulating intellectual environment in which to pursue the degree in the History and Philosophy of Design.

Area Coordinators
Sonja Duempelmann, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture
John May, Design Critic in Architecture

Eve Blau, Adjunct Professor in Architectural History
Sonja Duempelmann, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture
Ed EigenAssociate Professor of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
K. Michael Hays, Eliot Noyes Professor of Architectural Theory 
John May, Design Critic in Architecture
Erika Naginski, Associate Professor of Architectural History 
Antoine Picon, Professor of the History of Architecture and Technology
Christine Smith, Robert C. and Marian K. Weinberg Professor of Architectural History

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