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Architectural Research Studio

The Architectural Research Studio is a viable curricular offering in a professional, graduate, accredited curriculum in Architecture.

Architectural Research

Architectural research is different from basic or applied research, in that design processes are involved as part of the research. Architectural research attempts to solve a research problem, answer a research question, or address a design issue, using designs as the vehicle for the inquiry. The instruments of the research are often drawings, animations, models, simulations and other design artifacts. The researcher attempts to solve a design problem, answer a research question, or address a design issue, using these design artifacts as research instruments.

The Architectural Research Studio

The Architectural Research Studio is a viable curricular offering in a professional, graduate, accredited curriculum in Architecture. It provides the benefits of boosting research productivity in a department, strengthening ties with architectural firms that have an alumni presence, providing career networking opportunities for graduate students, generating valuable intellectual property, fostering research careers, and adding to the knowledge base of the Architecture profession. The all-around benefits far outweigh the challenges that have to be overcome in offering this studio.


This experiment with an architectural research studio was first conducted during the fall semester of 2010 in the Department of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at North Dakota State University. The studio course was taught by Dr. Ganapathy Mahalingam, then an Associate Professor of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, who holds a Ph.D. in Architecture, and has extensive experience with research projects. In order to facilitate a wide range of research topics to be covered by students in the course, Dr. Mahalingam approached the Advisory Board of the department, consisting mainly of alumni of the department, and asked them to provide research problems, questions, and issues, from the world of their professional practice that the students could address. Two firms with an alumni presence responded with research topics, one of which was selected by two different students to pursue. Considering that this was a brand new initiative, this was a good beginning. As the studio evolved, with more active participation by alumni firms, a much richer intellectual discourse was enabled. The various projects featured on this site were completed by the students in repeated offerings of the course. The research projects cover a diverse range of topics that utilize many different research methods to address the issues that the students have taken upon themselves to resolve.

Our Process Framework

The following is a template for the process of implementing an Architectural Research Studio:

NOTE: As of the fall semester of 2015, the Sponsored Programs Administration at North Dakota State University has ruled that sponsored projects cannot be part of academic coursework in the Architectural Research Studio, so some of the benefits are no longer viable at North Dakota State University. View Details

Advantages of the Architectural Research Studio:

  • Graduate students can utilize the studio to complete research projects fit for publication. Often this experience will be their first attempt at a research publication.
  • Faculty members who teach the studio can co-author research papers with the graduate students for presentation at conferences, or for publication. As much as a dozen papers can be co-authored in a semester, which is a high level of productivity for a faculty member, especially one who is to go up for promotion and/or tenure.
  • Students can work on research problems, research questions, or design issues, supplied by alumni firms. This allows the graduate students to work on real world problems, questions, and issues, drawn from the world of professional practice. This also allows the graduate students to network with alumni firms for future employment.
  • The students, faculty, department and university can benefit from the creation of intellectual property, which can be transferred to architectural firms, using a licensing system, or be sold outright.
  • The research work completed in this studio can be compiled annually and provided to member firms that participate in a research consortium managed by the department, by paying an annual membership fee. Alternatively the research projects can be featured on the department’s web site, creating high profile exposure of cutting edge work being done by the graduate students.
  • The studio can become a vehicle for the high research productivity in sponsored research that is demanded from departments at a research university. A department’s typical annual quota of publications can be met easily with this studio being offered annually.


Financial Benefits of an Architectural Research Studio

The Architectural Research Studio can provide all around financial benefits for students, faculty, the department and the university, when it is offered.

  • For the research work, a graduate student can be paid a stipend of a minimum of $1600 per semester (160 hours at the rate of $10 per hour), which constitutes a quarter-time assistantship, which, in most institutions qualifies for a tuition waiver. This stipend can be sponsored by the architectural firm submitting the research question, problem or issue to be resolved. For a class of 12 graduate students, a sponsored outlay of less than $20,000 can support the entire studio.
  • The architectural firm sponsoring the graduate student can also negotiate to acquire the intellectual property being generated by the graduate student and the faculty member teaching the studio. It is customary that the university and department would receive shares of this intellectual property for the resources they provide in generating the intellectual property.
  • All the participants in the studio stand to benefit financially from the offering of the studio:
  • The university would be in a position to generate income from licensing fees for the intellectual property generated by the studio.
  • The department would be able to recover indirect costs in generating the intellectual property.
  • The faculty member teaching the studio would be in a position to receive his or her share of the intellectual property earnings in the form of royalties, or a portion of the licensing fees.
  • The student would be in a position to receive a stipend, and a tuition waiver for completing the research. In addition, the student may also be eligible for a share of the income generated by the intellectual property generated.