The study of history provides the connection, context, and roots central for the identity of who we were, who we are, and who we might be. History of architecture as a field within the broad intellectual discipline of history has a special role in helping us to understand the built environment and how it affects our lives. The School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin offers a two-stage master's and doctoral program in preparation for college teaching, writing, and specialized research careers. Students work closely with faculty in courses, seminars, and independent research projects to develop independent thought as well as a thorough knowledge of the field and its critical methods. Cross-disciplinary work in the university's distinguished departments of art history, history, philosophy, and geography, is encouraged. Students are expected to demonstrate a high degree of competence across a wide range of the history of architecture, together with mastery of a field of specialization.

The graduate Architectural History Program at The University of Texas at Austin is among the handful of architectural history faculties in the United States housed within a school of architecture. Faculty and students pursue a wide range of approaches and methodologies, but emphasis is placed on understanding buildings and their architects in context and on viewing buildings and design as complex and interconnected wholes. The program offers unusual depth in the modern period, but supports a broad range of subjects.

Admission to the program is highly competitive. Seminars are small, and advanced students work one-on-one with their advisors and other faculty members. The University's libraries — with excellent art, architecture, and planning collections — complement the curriculum. 

The program embraces the history of architecture in the broadest sense, to include architectural history, history of architectural theory, urban history, history of interior design, and other historical dimensions of architecture and building practice. Students are encouraged to shape their own critical approaches and to develop a mastery of historical research and writing.

Advising: Students in the M.A. and Ph.D. Program determine their course of study with advice and permission of the Program Director. Program curricula are highly individualized and will be determined in consultation with the Program Director. The Graduate Advisor and Chair, Graduate Students Committee also provide advice and consent for students course programs and independent studies.

 

Curriculum — M.A. degree

The Master of Arts in architectural history degree program provides students with an introduction to advanced studies in Architectural History and is a prerequisite for the Ph.D. program. It may be pursued independently. It is ordinarily completed in two years and requires a minimum of 30 hours of coursework, reading knowledge of a foreign language, and a thesis.

Sample Program of Study

First Year (First Semester) Hours
ARC 386M Methodologies in Architectural History 3
ARC 388R Architectural history elective 3
ARC 388R Architectural history elective 3
First Year (Second Semester)  
ARC 388R Architectural history elective 3
ARC 388R Architectural history elective 3
Minor elective* 3
Second Year (Third Semester)  
ARC 388R Architectural history elective 3
ARC 388R or ARC389 Independent Study** 3
ARC 698A Thesis A (research) 3
Second Year (Fourth Semester)  
Minor elective* 3
ARC 698B Thesis B (writing) 3

Some Architectural History electives may be taken from ARC 386M Topics in Architectural Theory with approval of the Program Director.

* Minor electives are courses taken outside the School of Architecture.

** Approval of independent research or reading topic is required prior to registration.

 

Curriculum — Ph.D. Program

The program leading to the Ph.D. in the area of architectural history builds on the master's degree and provides students with advanced training to prepare them to teach and to conduct research at the highest level. Students who have completed a Master's degree must apply for continuation to the Ph.D. level. The Ph.D. requires a minimum of 21 hours of course work leading to the comprehensive examination. Students must demonstrate of reading proficiency in a second foreign language approved by the Ph.D. Committee. The comprehensive examination tests general knowledge of architectural history, an area of concentration, and a minor area. Following successful completion of comprehensive examinations, the student develops a dissertation topic and makes a public presentation to the Ph.D. Committee, which then recommends candidacy to the Dean of the Graduate School. The writing, oral defense, and revision of the dissertation follow.

The number of hours may vary depending on the student's individual situation, her or his previous background, interests, and needs. The length of time required to complete a dissertation varies according to individual situations but should normally be completed within two years. 

 

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE PH.D. COMPREHENSIVE QUALIFYING EXAMINATION

Doctoral students who have completed their required coursework and satisfied the language and design experience requirements and have permission from the Ph.D. Committee can proceed to take their comprehensive qualifying examinations. As part of the process for obtaining permission, the candidate will  present to the Ph.D. Committee a portfolio of work consisting of seminar papers, their M.A. thesis, and any other items the Committee may request. The Committee and other members of the faculty it designates will assess the portfolio to determine the student’s suitability to sit for Comprehensive Examinations.
 
The student will be examined in two areas: a general examination over the entire field of architectural history, from ancient to modern, around the globe; and a focused examination in a secondary area that is outside the specialized field of a potential dissertation. The general examination tests a student’s knowledge of the fundamental principles and material of the discipline, including issues of methodology and interpretation, and a knowledge of the most important texts in the field. The focused examination allows investigation of an area outside the student’s specialized field and is intended to complement a student’s general knowledge. For some students this could be an interdisciplinary pursuit, such as historic preservation, or it could be a sustained inquiry into areas of theory or criticism. Or for other students it might be a concentrated study of a different region, e.g., a student of European modernism could select Latin American modernism. At least two long semesters prior to standing for the comprehensive qualifying examination, a student must prepare and have approved by the Ph.D. Committee two extensive bibliographies, one for the general field and second for the secondary area of expertise.
 
The comprehensive qualifying examination will be oral in format. The examiners will include all of the instructors of architectural history in the Graduate Studies Committee as well as an outside expert (or experts) they may invite. The examination will last no longer than three hours. The faculty will present images for the student to identify, analyze, and discuss. The faculty will select the images in advance, and the students will have no prior knowledge of them.

Students will be asked to bring with them three Powerpoint images of buildings or sites about which they may speak, analyzing the features and import of each selected architectural work. At the discretion of the reviewing committee, the student may, or may not, be asked to present and comment on the images they have brought.
 
Students who are judged to have weaknesses in a particular area may be asked to write an essay afterward with length and other details specified at the conclusion of the examination. The essay will be written and submitted in a 24-hour period to the Director of the Ph.D. Committee. Students whose performance is unsatisfactory to the Committee will not be allowed to proceed in the Ph.D. program. Upon satisfactory completion of the comprehensive qualifying examination a student will move on to prepare for his or her dissertation colloquium.

 

Opportunities for Interdisciplinary Study

Students may combine their research on historical topics with a broad array of related subjects. As a major research university, the University of Texas at Austin offers a wide selection of electives, including courses in Art History, American Studies, Classics, Cultural Geography, History, Anthropology, Museum Studies, Latin American Studies, and Asian Studies.

M.S. and Ph.D. in Historic Preservation

The Historic Preservation program offers Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees for students planning careers in the preservation of significant buildings, cultural landscapes and historic districts. Architectural History majors make take electives or earn certification in Historic Preservation.

Department of Art and Art History, College of Fine Arts

With advice and permission of the Program Director, students may select elective courses through the Department of Art History. A large range of courses in Western and Non-Western art history is offered, with particularly strong concentrations in the fields of modern art (including Latin America) and Pre-Columbian art. The faculty, all of them prominent in their respective fields, is one of the largest in the country. The Art History Department's courses in Greek and Roman architecture particularly complement the program in Architectural History.