At UVA School of Architecture, we recognize that the decisions, histories, and processes — social, biological, and physiographic — that produce the constructed environment are neither static nor pre-given, but are dynamic and interconnected, and constitute situated adaptive systems. To contend with the complex and evolving character of the constructed environment, our program engages with these issues from technical, material, policy, and theoretical perspectives.


 The constructed environment is a continuously evolving realm that:

1. Encompasses the material, socio-economic, and political systems of the human mediated physical world.

2. Spans a wide range of temporal-spatial scales, from plants and species to building elements, assemblages, sites, neighborhoods, cities, and global infrastructures, across historical narratives, present conditions, and future projections.

3. Is the product of competing agents drawn from across the socio-physical environment including microorganisms, climatic conditions, interfaces with virtual realms, urban conglomerations, migrating populations, and the intentional and unintentional efforts of designers, planners, and policymakers.

The PhD in the Constructed Environment is a multidisciplinary program developed to identify and address complex phenomena, problems, and potentials in the contemporary world not easily explained by isolated disciplinary knowledge. We invite you to join us in questioning the constructed environment: what it is, how it functions, where it’s headed, and the ways we might join in to understand and shape it.


Housed in the School of Architecture, the PhD Program in the Constructed Environment builds on and expands the school’s existing forms of knowledge by connecting them to one another and to a broader range of disciplines and methods of research. Our goal is to construct a web of shared scholarly ambitions that begin at the School of Architecture, but do not end there. We strive to use our focus on the constructed environment as a way to connect, bridge, or unite existing disciplines. Toward this, our program provides a space in which to gather up new modes, media, and models that cross disciplinary and methodological boundaries and combine theoretical and practical knowledge. We support research that mixes methods from the natural, social, and data sciences with those stemming from the humanities and design disciplines, including quantitative and qualitative analyses and methods. We ask not only how social relationships shape the constructed environment’s history, theory, and development, but how they might shape its future. What are its critical processes? What knowledge does it produce? How has the constructed environment been produced through labor, technology, governance, social justice, media, and experimentation, urban conglomerations and global modernity, terraforming, and virtual worlds?

The PhD in the Constructed Environment seeks to explore the physio-socio-ecological systems, connections, and manifestations that form the constructed environment by supporting advanced research in topics that engage one or more of the Architecture’s School’s four disciplines: Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Urban + Environmental Planning, and Architectural History. The program fosters scholarship that identifies and researches emerging multidisciplinary issues across the globe and at every scale. Whether investigating the favelas of Sao Paolo, the digital environments of video games, sensing technologies embedded in urban landscapes, or geo-engineering proposals targeted at addressing global climate change, our students seek new and unconventional perspectives on the production of space and related social, ecological, aesthetic, and economic policies and practices.

Students come to the program in the Constructed Environment from a wide range of disciplines and practices. Building on and extending their expertise, students in the program work closely with their advisors and other students to develop self-directed study plans that bring theory together with applied research through courses in the School of Architecture and throughout the university. The focus of study may explore any area of the constructed environment, from plant biology to global infrastructural systems. The program prepares students for careers in academia, as well as research-oriented organizations in the public and private sectors.

The Ph.D. program in the Constructed Environment is a multidisciplinary, school-level doctoral degree that spans the four departmental disciplines within the School of Architecture: Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Urban + Environmental Planning, and Architectural History.


The Doctor of Philosophy in the Constructed Environment requires a minimum of 72 credits, including 48 credits of coursework, to be completed in full-time residence at the University during the first four semesters of the program.

We have identified four strains by which we study the constructed environment. Each of these strains encompasses a broad research terrain. They are intended to characterize the breadth of constructed environment research in the School of Architecture. Faculty dissertation advisors are listed within their associated research strains.

Social + Spatial Organizations 

The morphologies, institutions, landforms, and economic structures that activate the constructed environment.


Urban + Ecological Intersections 

The planning and analysis of urban and natural systems and landscapes, urban theorization, forms of governance, resilience, and human and ecological health and wellbeing.


Digital + Data-Driven Technologies 

Digital media, data literacy, digital humanities, sensing and responsive technologies, smart cities, and other data-driven approaches and digital technologies in the constructed environment, along with the theoretical and ethical questions sparked by advances in technology.


Identity Formations 

Questions of how, when, and under what conditions cultural, aesthetic, and political identities are formed in relation to the constructed environment, power structures, cultural geography, and the history and theory of the cultural realm.


Learn more about each of these faculty members by accessing the Directory.

Weaam Alabdullah

Department: Landscape Architecture
Education: MLA, Harvard University (2016); B.Arch., University of Arizona (2013)

Weaam is a 2nd year PhD student housed in the Department of Landscape Architecture. Her research examines the problematic aspect of using frameworks for landscape design based on notions of authenticity, heritage, and nationalism in heterogeneous communities.

Shahab Albahar

Department: Urban and Environmental Planning
Education: MLA, Harvard University (2015); BArch, RISD (2012); BFA, RISD (2012)

Shahab Albahar is a first year PhD in the Constructed Environment student focusing on Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning. His research interests lie in the laws and regulations of the aviation industry and their effect on contemporary planning policies.

Michael T. Bacon

Department: Urban and Environmental Planning
Education: MA Geography, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, BA Biology, Environmental Science, Carleton College

Michael Bacon joined the Constructed Environment Ph.D. program in the fall of 2015. His research interests are in community economies, common property, integrative methods, and actor-network geographies and ecologies. He studies the community land trust buyout movement in rural Scotland.

Patricia Basile

Department: Urban and Environmental Planning 
Education: B.A. Architecture and Urban Planning, Mackenzie University (2010); Specialization Graduate Degree in Sustainability in the Constructed Environment, Mackenzie University (2012).

Patricia's research examines how the processes contributing to the production of urban space worldwide perpetuate inequalities and segregation. Within this line of research, her dissertation focuses on the production and maintenance of community governance through space, everyday practices and collective action in Sao Paulo’s favelas using a case study approach.

Fatmah Behbehani

Education: BA Architecture, Kuwait University (2013); MUEP, University of Virginia (2015)

Fatmah Behbehani joined the PhD in the Constructed Environment program in the fall of 2015. Her research examines the planning and social implications of state-led urban developments. Fatmah’s dissertation is tentatively titled: “New Towns, New Visions: The Planning and Social Implications of Morocco’s New Town Experiment.”

Alissa Ujie Diamond

Department: Urban and Environmental Planning
Education: M.A. Landscape Architecture, University of Virginia (2008); B.S. Architecture, University of Virginia (2002)

Alissa joined the in the PhD program in the Constructed Environment in fall of 2017. Her research is focused on the potential of landscape design to reckon with racial histories in the United States. Her explorations address a number of questions regarding cultural valuations of landscapes.

Zhe Dong

Department: Architecture
Education: B.A. Architecture, Tianjin University (2012); M.A. Art History, University of Louisville (2014)

Zhe Dong studies monumental architecture with a particular focus on the commemorative culture since the 1950s in Mao Zedong’s birthplace, Shaoshan, in China. Through Shaoshan’s case, Zhe asks whether it is possible to achieve a scientific presentation, analysis, and proposal of advancement of one constructed environment that is historically, politically, and phenomenologically entangled.

Katie Gloede

Education: B.S. Geography & Environmental Inquiry, Penn State (2010); M.A. Environmental Conservation, New York University (2012)

Katherine joined the Constructed Environment program in the Fall of 2014 in the Department of Architecture to study resilience in coastal cities, specifically New York. Her research is focused broadly on foundations of resilience, current planning and policy that address disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation, and exploration of such interventions as biophilic design, elevating social cohesion, and retrofitting multifamily for enhanced building performance.

Zhiqiu Jiang

Department: Urban and Environmental Planning
Education: BEng. Urban and Regional Planning, Sichuan University (2014); Master of Urban Planning, The State University of New York at Buffalo (2016).

Zhiqiu Jiang joined the Constructed Environment Ph.D program in the fall of 2016 with a focus in addressing challenging issues in transportation planning according to a data-driven approach, in particular in exploring new data and methods for examining travel behavior characteristics and shifts in an increasingly connected and automated vehicle (CAV) world.

Kevan Klosterwill

Department: Urban and Environmental Planning
Education: MLA University of Georgia (2014), BLA University of Georgia (2010)

Kevan’s research interests include intersections between community engaged design, systems thinking, and emerging design scales and media. Broadly, his research is focused on systems- and pattern-based approaches to design and spatial practice, considering how individual actions and practices.

Leigh Miller

Department: Architectural History
Education: MAH, 2015 Architectural History, University of Virginia, MArch, 2011 Savannah
College of Art and Design, BA, 2007 Art History (Hons.) George Mason University

Leigh’s research is focused on the way in which video game worlds are creating new ways of spatializing within an architectural context. Broadly this research speaks to issues of ontology and phenomenology in digital space. This area of questioning stems from a life-long interest in world building and immersive fictions.

Elizabeth A. Mitchell

Department: Architectural History
Education: B.A. Architectural Design, University of Washington (2009); B.A. Mathematics, University of Washington (2009); M.A.H. Architectural History, University of Virginia (2014)

Elizabeth Mitchell's dissertation is focused on the synagogue architecture of the 17th-18th century Atlantic region, engaging in research that explores the global movement of architectural conventions and the conditions of diaspora.

Kelly W.S. Ritter

Department: Architectural History
Education: MA, Architectural History, University of Virginia; BA, Art History and French, University of California Davis

Kelly W.S. Ritter was the Hobby Family Fellow in the Constructed Environment, 2014-2017. She studies the history and theory of the modern city and transnational urban space. Her dissertation in progress, entitled “Shanghai: the City and its Image” argues that 1930s Shanghai was produced both in its physical form as well as in visual culture.

Matthew Slaats

Department: Urban and Environmental Planning
Education: MA/MFA Art History and Fine Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison (2006); BA Archaeology, University of Evansville (1999)

Matthew Slaats is an artist, designer, teacher, organizer, and activist, focusing on participatory modes of decision-making that strengthen resident voices in defining the future of their cities. His research at UVA  centers on the meeting point between creativity and democracy, researching new processes that support civic participation and practice.

Julia Triman

Department: Urban and Environmental Planning
Education: M.A. Urban and Environmental Planning, University of Virginia; M.A. Deaf Cultural Studies, Gallaudet University; B.A. Theatre Design and Production, University of Maryland,College Park

Julia Triman’s research examines the ways informal, spontaneous, and unplanned urban vegetation and animals challenge the project of city-making and re-frame urban and nature imaginaries. Her dissertation, titled “Regulating Wildness: Planning Discourses of Weeds and Wildlife in Washington, D.C.” explores what it might mean to invite spontaneity into processes idealizing order, predictability, and human intentionality.

Zihao Zhang

Department: Landscape Architecture
Education: MLA, University of Virginia (2016). B.E. in Landscape Architecture, Beijing Forestry University, China (2013)

Zihao Zhang joined the Ph.D. in the Constructed Environment in the fall of 2016. His research critically examines the application of digital technologies and data-driven approaches, i.e. sensing and responsive systems in the landscape and urban design professions. His work is influenced by assemblage theory, object-oriented ontology, and conceptualism in art and architecture.