Research at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) is grounded in the belief that many of the key challenges and opportunities of our era require cooperation among the arts, humanities, and sciences and among the academy, industry, civil society and the public sector. 

Unprecedented demands are affecting our cities and infrastructure, the environment, and our society as a whole. Today’s complex issues require an unconventional but cooperative approach that can transcend disciplines and produce change at all levels—not only for the spaces in which we live, but also for our approach to art, technology, business, education, and more. Our innovations are producing practical solutions to quandaries in urbanization, environment and technology – from geographic information systems to designing the future of cities. We hope you will visit the individual webpages of our research units to learn about the ambitious and rapidly expanding research agenda of the GSD and its transformative power.

Research and Teaching

At the GSD, research and teaching go hand in hand. The School’s collective research initiatives begin with the individual endeavors of faculty and students and are strongly integrated in our pedagogical mission. We supplement our core design pedagogy with research that addresses global issues, both in traditional building fields and entrepreneurial ventures. We reach beyond the limits of our core disciplines to collaborate across sectors, including business, technology, the arts, health, public policy, and more. In this way, the GSD synthesizes research, teaching and practice in a collaborative, holistic approach that empowers our community to make a difference around the world.


The GSD builds on a long tradition of ground-breaking innovations. Since its foundation in 1936, the GSD has coupled its excellent professional training with in-depth research activity across a range of fields from history and theory, to technology, environment and design:

  • At the GSD’s Laboratory for Computer Graphics, the first computer mapping systems were developed and evolved into geographic information systems.
  • In the 1960s, the Joint Center for Urban Studies with MIT brought together urban planners, architects and social scientists to think through the future of cities and proposed the designs for many localities, including Ciudad Guyana in Venezuela.
  • A Synthesis of Form, Christopher Alexander’s seminal dissertation, was written at the GSD.
  • Eduard Sekler’s work with the UNESCO on preservation in Nepal has provided a template for preservation of public spaces across the world.

Continuing with this tradition, our Research Centers, Design Labs, Programs and Initiatives are creating a critical mass of inquiry and research. Unique in their focus, each builds ties with experts in their fields, with implications for policy, practice, and society at large. This is done across disciplines, both within the University and with external institutions, organizations, and individuals.


Our goal is to prepare the next generation of design leaders who will address increasingly complex issues around the world and the School’s research platform is providing our faculty and students with a global forum to make transformative contributions through design, from insights in ecological urbanism and city-making to advancements in representation and the future of technology.  By focusing our attention, intellect, resources and mission through the lens of research at the GSD, we aim to improve the human experience, and improve it by design.