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SAPL launches new doctoral design program

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL) at the University of Calgary is launching the first doctoral program in Canada that’s specifically focused on practicing architects, planners, and landscape architects.

The Doctor of Design (DDes) provides a platform for established practitioners to leverage their existing expertise into new areas of innovation. The doctoral degree is open to mid-career professionals with at least five years of work experience.

“The climate crisis, social inequality, and the digital revolution of smart cities, computational design, and robotic fabrication are rewriting the way cities are being designed, built, and operated,” says Dr. John L. Brown, SAPL dean. “This creates enormous opportunities for architects, planners, and landscape architects to expand their practice, increase their value to clients, and make a bigger and more positive impact in the world.”

DDes graduates will use the knowledge generated through their research to open new areas of innovation, create competitive advantages, and more clearly articulate their value proposition to clients and the broader public. The Doctor of Design also provides an appropriate terminal academic credential for design professionals interested in applying for post-secondary teaching positions.

The DDes is very different from traditional PhD programs because the research is practice-focused and design-based, with students developing a work-integrated research program centered around a unique inquiry emerging from their experience and insights in practice. Students remain fully engaged in their working life while pursuing a research program in an intense and rigorous format that is distinct from, but parallel to, their professional work.

Three required courses offered in a blended distance-learning format help guide students through the early stages of their research. Twice a year, all DDes students gather for a four-day research symposium to present the progress of their research work in a “studio-crit” format and receive feedback from their supervisors, fellow students, and a cohort of invited critics.

In between symposia, students work remotely with their supervisors to continue developing their projects. The degree is completed with a written thesis document, gallery exhibition, and public defence conducted during one of the research symposia.

“The structure of the program allows students from around the world to complete the degree while remaining embedded in their professional offices,” says Brown. “The semi-annual symposia, held in Calgary over long weekends in the spring and fall, are important and exciting opportunities for students to share their work and learn from each other.”

Applications are now being accepted for fall 2020 program start; the deadline for applications is Feb. 1, 2020. Applicants are encouraged to apply early. Significant professional experience will be considered in lieu of a graduate academic degree.

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