Historic Preservation

Program Category: PhD Programs
Website: arch.columbia.edu
Degree Programs: Full-Time: MPhil, PhD

Please note: The degree for this program is conferred by GSAS, but program specifics, such as admissions and financial aid decisions and degree requirements, are administered by the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP).

The PhD program in Historic Preservation program supports advanced research and development of experimental preservation methods, praxes, theories, histories, policies, materials and technologies of care for historic buildings and the existing built environment writ large. It sponsors ambitious individual doctoral projects that critically engage experimental preservation as the touchstone for generating innovative scholarship into pressing contemporary social needs and environmental challenges. The program is future oriented, encouraging interdisciplinary research projects that bridge between the professions of the built environment, art, technology and data science.  

The program is housed within GSAPP's Preservation Technology Laboratory, which provides research space, instrumentation, a materials and historic fragments library, and access to a global network of scholarly and research engagements. Doctoral students also benefit from the resources of Avery Library, as well as strong connections to the rest of GSAPP’s scholarly community, and other departments within Columbia University.

This fully funded program is oriented toward the training of scholars in the discipline of historic preservation. Its structure reflects the understanding of the role of the scholar within historic preservation at large, as both teacher and researcher capable of bridging theory and praxis, and of contributing original knowledge to the discipline. Students are expected to conduct independent doctoral research, supported by the preservation faculty’s wide range of expertise.

The academic curriculum provides a solid foundation in, and historically informed understanding of the discipline’s evolving challenges and purposes. It supports experimentation on new preservation approaches suited to the emerging technological, environmental, social, ethical and aesthetic issues shaping the twenty-first century. It fosters a critical scholarly culture conducive to training the discipline’s future leaders.

The curriculum requires two years of coursework, one year to prepare and take general exams, and two years for independent research and writing. The total time to completion is expected to be five years.

Eligibility for admission to the program is generally limited to students holding a Master of Historic Preservation degree. Students who hold a master's degree or equivalent in another field are also considered for admission.

Applicants to the PhD Program in Historic Preservation are encouraged to submit an optional portfolio if it speaks to their research interest in experimental preservation approaches that explore material intersections of the PAAST (Preservation Art Architecture Science and Technology) with urgent contemporary environmental and social issues.

Optional portfolio submissions should adhere to the following specifications: The digital portfolio should be in a single PDF document, 20 PDF pages or fewer (including the cover pages and table of contents, if applicable), and should not exceed 32 MB. The digital portfolio should be optimized for viewing on a standard size computer screen. Digital portfolios must be uploaded at the time the application is submitted. Portfolios should contain reproductions of original drawings, prints, graphic design, or sculpture.

Please note that applicants are not required to submit a portfolio. Applications submitted without the optional portfolio will not be penalized in the review process.

Special Admissions Requirements

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must submit one transcript showing courses and grades per school attended, a statement of academic purpose, a personal statement, and three letters of evaluation from academic sources.

*GSAS will accept up to four recommendations, regardless of the number required by your program of interest. However, to be eligible for admission at GSAS, at least TWO letters must be submitted by academic recommenders.