“More than ever before in history, technological development has changed our perception of the world. With the advent of the mobile phone and email we communicate in an immediate way; physically, one can live in isolation while linked to the whole world. How will the city develop? Will there be a need for a physical city in a virtual world? How will architecture react to these developments? We have to do research; we have to analyze existing phenomena; we have to learn from new trends. We also have to hypothesize strategies for a new environment that surfs on the discoveries of other disciplines. “Progressive Research” means to speculate about new conditions and invent new building types on new city sites within a new idea of living-working-playing-shopping-relaxing-learning-communicating. Progressive research means to raise questions about the role architecture and urbanism should play in the future.”
Dean Wiel Arets
College of Architecture
What defines a Ph.D. program in architecture? The curriculum? The faculty? Its historical legacy? Its scholarly resources and location? The new doctoral program at Illinois Institute of Technology, like many others, can be defined by such metrics, but it seeks to define itself uniquely in two other ways: first by its focus on the metropolis and the need for fresh thinking about existing and future urban typologies; second by the nature or direction of its research.
In classical Greece the word metropolis referred to the parent state or “mother city” of a colony. Today the metropolis has itself become a colony; or rather, the earth has become the support system for a growing colony of megalopolitan centers that circumscribe its surface. The material limits of these “mother” cities do not permit us to remain indulgent in our design thinking, and the imposing challenge for designers today is to review and redefine the systematic features of our habitats, cities, and living habits. The new doctoral program of the College of Architecture, housed within the metropolis of Chicago, offers an experimental lab for rethinking the place of architecture within its globalized urban context.
The idea of research is of course a variegated one. And while students who enter IIT’s new doctoral program can define a path within the realms of history, theory, urbanism, and the various building technologies, a number of red threads will knit their efforts into a collaborative and vital entity. The goal of this research is to equip the student with a sophisticated toolbox of tactics and strategies in line with the complex issues that each generation of designers faces in this rapidly changing world. In this regard,
RESEARCH IS INFORMED. The architect is an intellectual, not a technocrat. The architect draws upon a strong grounding in theory because the history of architectural debates is but a continuous recycling of ideas and approaches forced to undergo reparation within a new context. Someone who reactivates or enlivens the voice of theory, who masters the semantics and syntax of its ideas, will acquire the ability to think in an informed way about the present and future.
RESEARCH IS INTERDISCIPLINARY. The world today is a very different world from that of a century or decade ago. In confronting the many problems of metropolitan life, we no longer have the luxury of engaging in the comfortable and complacent aesthetics of a bygone era. Technology has altered the way we perceive things, including our engagement with our built environments, and our response as designers demands the augmentation or implementation of relevant resources from outside of the traditional architectural storehouse of ideas. Architects do not create objects; they collaborate with others in shaping the surroundings in which our living experiences take place.
RESEARCH IS CRITICAL AND STRATEGICAL. One may in theory resist the status quo, but to affect changes demands a comprehensive strategy. Architects are not armchair academics and doctoral programs should not be housed in ivory towers. Architects are builders who by nature seek to ameliorate existing conditions through the mobilization of ideas and visions. Everything should be looked at critically.
RESEARCH IS URGENT. For several decades now, architectural theory has been content to dwell in philosophical abstractions. We lack this extravagance today because there is a genuine urgency for people of talent and training to step forward. The built world affects the happiness of people in innumerable and profound ways. Research may be speculative, but it is informed speculation directed to real-world problems and the architect should never lose sight of this fact.
RESEARCH IS PROGRESSIVE. Can we imagine a city without an automobile? Can each unit within a residential tower have its own greenhouse? Has the notion of a city in itself become obsolete? What long-term impact does a street demonstration in Cairo have on a city square in China? The course of nature and politics may be unpredictable, but the role of tomorrow’s architect is quite foreseeable: the creation of new building and urban types.
RESEARCH IS MULTIFACETED. The new doctoral program will be accessed through the two curricular paths of “History, Theory, and Criticism” (HTC), and “Technologies of the Built Environment” (TBE). The HTC path will consider—from the perspective of theory and culture—how human beings think about, design, and engage their built urban environments. The TBE path will focus on a city’s infrastructural systems, building components, new materials, and their integration through design into larger systems.
IIT Architecture Ph.D. Office