Architecture by Design - PhD


A PhD in Architecture by Design will give you an informed awareness of the methods and theoretical frameworks that shape the ways in which practitioners and researchers have interpreted issues in the field and enable you to develop and justify your own interpretive experiments, fieldwork, design work and arguments.  You will have the opportunity to pursue research by architectural design method, exploring the roles that design plays, and might play, within wider cultural processes.

This PhD provides the opportunity for optimum reflection, interpretation and action: a minimum of three years full-time study, or six years part-time.  The programme draws on the strengths of design teaching throughout ESALA and you will work directly with a postgraduate supervisor from the School, but also closely with other postgraduate programmes and the full range of available staff and peer expertise in ECA and the University of Edinburgh as a whole.

How you will study

Your Architecture by Design thesis will be composed of both design work and text.  We will encourage and enable you to use the full range of design media to develop both research method and thesis presentation, for example, as film, digital media, portfolio, exhibition, physical construction and installation.

To complement your academic supervision, you will have the opportunity to participate in a range of lectures and workshops, contributing to the development of specific, transferable and professional skills.  You may also be offered the opportunity to contribute to teaching within the Department.   If so, you will be offered support and training to help develop your teaching skills more effectively.

The full facilities of the School will be made available to you, including extensive digital and specific material workshops.  Together with fellow students, you will have the opportunity to contribute to the School’s healthy design presentation culture, its print and e-publication output, international debate across a range of design-related fields and the organisation of symposia and conferences.

Current students

Top five reasons to choose the programme

  • Students will develop design-led research methods, methodologies and sophisticated theorisation.
  • Students will have an informed awareness of and contribute to the development of the variety of methods and theoretical frameworks that have shaped the ways in which architectural practitioners, designers and researchers, past and present, have interpreted issues in the field.  Students will develop and justify their own independent interpretive experiments, fieldwork, design work and/or arguments.  Graduates of this Programme will be able to evaluate critically the possible roles that design plays and might play within wider cultural processes.
  • Students will develop fluency with digital media and other modes of representation to allow the development of cross-disciplinary engagements and collaborative networks in creative work.
  • Students will produce a carefully considered thesis that develops and supports an independent argument clearly and effectively and of a standard that can be presented in an international arena.
  • Students will enhance the ability to present information/data well to an audience, hence, will also develop the ability to plan and deliver university-level teaching, using different studio, lecture and seminar formats.


Dr Dorian Wiszniewski, Programme Director | View staff profile >

This is a research programme. Support and supervision may be provided by any of the teaching staff in this School.

View the full staff list for Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture >


Everything you need to know about finding perfect student accommodation.

Resources for History of Art, Art, Architecture and Landscape Architecture students.

A fully operational, entirely student-run 90-seat theatre housed in a neo-gothic church.

Get information, advice and guidance about your career options.

The Centre for Research Collections (CRC) is the main space for anyone using the University of Edinburgh’s historic collections.

Work spaces are available across the University. ECA's computers include software tailored to the disciplines studied here.

At the heart of the Evolution House Learning and Research Zone, the ECA Library provides an innovative environment for learning, teaching and research resources in art and design.

ECAfé provides a full catering service to all staff, students and visitors to Edinburgh College of Art.

Edinburgh Global's mission is to encourage internationalisation, enhance the student experience, create and develop partnerships.

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A Georgian garden that doubles as a venue for performances in the centre of the city.

The primary collection of books, periodicals, manuscripts, and research material.

The workshop facilities include band saws, pillar drills, sanders and wire-cutters.

This model workshop is equipped for constructing architectural models in a wide variety of materials.

By day, a café, bar and study space, and by night a club venue. Potterrow’s dome is also home to the Advice Place and the Potter Shop.

Includes a screen-printing room, relief room, lithography room, process room, intaglio room, and caseroom.

The neo-classical Sculpture Court in the ECA Main Building is home to the many pieces from the Edinburgh Cast Collection, and is regularly used for student exhibitions.

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Supporting students with dyslexia, mental health issues and students on the autistic spectrum, as well as those who have physical and sensory impairments.

Talbot Rice Gallery is the public art Gallery for the University of Edinburgh.

Home to six distinctive bars, Teviot is the oldest purpose built students' union in the world.

A hub for the University Societies and setting regular live music, comedy, spoken word and poetry nights.

A bar at the Lauriston Campus which hosts regular events including club nights and gigs.

Woodworking tools and machinery include laser cutters, a vacuum former, and a 3D scanner and printer.

Scholarships & bursaries

Successful applicants will have a research interest aligning with, or cutting across, ECA's five Schools.

The scholarships cover tuition fees, maintenance allowance, research and travel allowance.

Designed to attract high quality students applying for PhD research.

Funding for PhD students undertaking interdisciplinary research at ECA. (£16,000 per year)

Open to overseas students starting a PhD at University of Edinburgh.

News & events

Announcing the details of the 14 ESALA Research Seminars scheduled for Semester Two.


The six contestants who took part in the ECA heat of this year's 3 Minute Thesis competition
The six contestants who took part in the ECA heat of this year's 3 Minute Thesis competition

Six PhD students battle it out, with wins for Music and Landscape Architecture.


Edinburgh College of Art Postgraduate Admissions

Phone: +44 (0)131 650 4086