Doctoral studies

Practice makes up the inventive, creative heart of doctoral studies. In the course of doctoral studies, research develops through friendly (collegial) feedback from supervisors, students vying competitively with each other, and comparison of work methods at doctoral seminars.

The understanding that architecture bureaus create new knowledge – knowledge that in practice ultimately takes the form of houses, plans, landscapes and other physical elements around us, but whose true content, causality, meaning and background, i.e. the new knowledge itself, often remains unexplored – is one of the most important innovations to come out of practice-based research. The model of practice-based doctoral studies goes beyond exploring, as a whole, the design or technological side of particular buildings; it also looks at the modus operandi of various offices, the pros and cons of collaboration, work rhythm and choice of customer – in other words, an architectural practice’s philosophy or operating model in the broader sense.

The allure of practice-based research lies in the fact that it draws a comparison of how practices that model space reconcile these dynamic features in different places in the world.

Objectives of the curriculum:

– Conducting practice-based research in the field of architecture and urban design.

– Creating new professional knowledge that ties in with today’s societal problems, including in collaboration with other disciplines.

– Promoting the ability to apply architecture and urban design skill sets for promoting the sustainable development of the living environment.

– Developing strategies and methods for professional research.

– Supporting, supplementing and developing a community of researchers and creative professionals who are capable of international collaboration.

The head of the doctoral programme in the field of architecture and urban design is Prof. Jüri Soolep, Ph.D.

Ph.D students:



“Urban meta-morphology: new principles of urban structure”

Supervisors PhD Mart Kalm, PhD Panu Lehtovuori

The PhD is about developing a new method to map and reveal the invisible image of the city using social media data and activity patterns. It is believed that spatial accessibility is the main attractor of social interactions (activities) and economic transaction (businesses) but in my case studies I present how the shape of the city is no longer related to activity patterns and use of certain space. This means that the practice of planning has to be updated and upgraded with this new understanding of urban phenomenology. Through the work of SPIN Unit I have used this new methodology (urban-metamorphology) to influence the planning and education practice in the US, Europe and Russia.



„The brief. A negotiation: a dialogue to craft outcomes for architecture“

Supervisor PhD Veronika Valk

Looking at the body of work of my creative practice, one of the consistencies that binds the work together is the act or process of negotiating. I use the notion of negotiation as a lens to look at the completed projects and discuss the work in terms of public behaviours. For an architect, a brief is a transformative trigger. The brief is a point of departure, to examine the range of forces that shape the ‘public’ brief in particular, prior to it coming to the attention of the architect. Looking specifically at the context of Northern Ireland, I will attempt to unravel the complex political, social and spatial conditions that give rise to the birth of the brief, and suggest how the architect might intervene in this process to alter its DNA.



“Dünaamiline kontekstualism”

Supervisor PhD Andres Kurg

Planeeritav doktoritöö otsib arhitektuuripraktika laiematest ümbrustest uusi ruumiideid. Eesmärgiks on jõuda heuristilise tööriistani, mis aitaks (nt klimaatilisse, geograafilisse, majanduslikku, poliitilisse, psühholoogilisse, poeetilisse) ümbrusesse kätketud ruumiideedel paremini tegelikesse arhitektuuriprojektidesse jõuda. Samuti tõstatatakse küsimus, mida võiks tähendada Eesti oludele vastav (kontekstitundlik) arhitektuur.



„Disturbing Landscapes“

Suprevisors PhD Tadeja Zupančič, PhD Veronika Valk

We are all victims of the architect – architecture is the only art that you cannot help but feel. Every architect is a dictator stimulating some sensations and hindering others. Architecture is a form of politics performed directly at bodies. By deforming landscapes, building obstacles and creating spaces we always deform and change the identities of the users. In this way architecture is never „nice” nor „beautiful” but rather an obscure matter striving to fulfil someones obsessions. My creative practice research ventures into the impossibility of control in architecture, impossibility of direct communication, impossibility of sufficient understanding, impossibility of being completely honest, often impossibility of addressing the relevant issues that actually matter.



„Arhitekt ühiskondlikes rollides”

Supervisors PhD Andres Sevtsuk, PhD Veronika Valk

Kavatsen oma doktoritöös enda praktika põhjal avada arhitektide töö olemust avalikus ja kolmandas sektoris, avaliku ruumi kavandamisel, planeerimisel ja ülesannete püstitamisel. Kirjeldan nende tööde erinevusi, sarnasusi, kattuvusi ja seoseid traditsioonilise arhitekti tööpraktikaga, kus arhitekt kavandab kellegi tellimusel midagi, mis on mõeldud otseselt ehitamiseks. Praktika ajalise ja ruumilise raamistiku annab Eesti Vabariik alates taasiseseisvumisest 1991. Asetan enda praktika laiemasse konteksti oma erinevate rollide kaudu ning neid rolle läbivate ja ühendavate teemade kaudu.

Esialgse kava järgi sisaldab doktoritöö väljund minu praktika põhjal järeldusi ja visiooni, mis võivad anda senisest selgema mõtestuse ühiskondlikes rollides tegutsevate arhitektide tööle laiemalt. Lisaks võib töö luua selgust, kuidas anda hariduse kaudu ettevalmistust arhitektidele avaliku sektori tööks ja muudeks ühiskondlikeks rollideks.



„Bio-city: on the relevance of bio-computation in architecture and urban design”

Supervisers PhD Mario Carpo, PhD Veronika Valk

My work and research operates at the convergence of discipline such as biology, computation and urban design. I am looking at the city from a non-anthropocentric point of view, realising that in our contemporary global world it is impossible to trace a clear distinction between nature and artifice, between landscape and city and ultimately between the biosphere and the urbansphere. From a satellite view it is quite difficult to define the boundaries between natural and artificial, contemporary global cities despite being large artificial systems often develop patterns that seem to recall natural formations of a radically different kind. From this perspective cities and their morphologies are mostly determined by the flows of matter, information and energy that fuel their metabolisms. Urbansphere, the global apparatus of contemporary urbanity, is a dense network of informational, material and energetic infrastructures that sustain our demanding metabolism while offsetting the fluctuations of the natural Biosphere. I propose a model to articulate the behaviour of the Urbansphere and define new terms for its sustainable co-evolution with the Biosphere. This responds to principles of biologic self-organisation, and operates by embedding a numerical/computational engines onto spatial/morphological substrata.



“Between the idea, tool and real(ization): Algorithmic processes in timber architecture and design”

Supervisors PhD Jüri Kermik, PhD Roland Snooks

Administration of digital design tools and technology to raise the construction potential of anisotropic materials. Introducing the terms idea, tool and real to describe the current design processes in my practise. Previously dominating linear dialog (idea to real, idea to tool, tool to real) have made its way to systematic re-appearing loops. Those loopholes have activated variability in scales (from high voltage pylon to urban city stages to accessories), integration of material characteristics (timber, plywood, glu-lam), machine limitations/ possibilities (timber manufacturers CNC mills) and sustainability (form human energy to environmental exhaustion).



„Animating future scenarios for public space”

Supervisors PhD Andres Kurg, PhD Maroš Krivy

Public space has become a widespread agenda for architects. The „space between the architecture“ has become subject to political correctness. Yet the notion of public space goes far beyond generous gestures in the built environments. In a global market economy, the public extends to geopolitics in planetary scale, yet very few spatial factors have been subject to environmental thinking as a public domain. With policies like the Paris Agreement, the first steps have been made in understanding the potential of a global public space, yet spatial practitioners stand far from being at the core of these debates, while their tools of projecting scenarios can potentially be the most effective in animating future developments.



“Cartography by design: achieving precision in architectural design”

Supervisor PhD Jüri Soolep

My thesis builds on projects completed by my architectural studio, tutoring at the Estonian Academy of Arts and conducting research on spatial structures of Estonian non-urban landscapes. For ten years I have organised and tutored the “Shelter” construction workshops for the first year architecture students, used ‘cartography by design’ as my tool of research and worked with a variety of clients. I have studied non-urban landscapes of Estonian villages alongside running a studio. My research into historic maps in urban context intertwine with architectural interventions. Through the PhD process I highlight transformative triggers of such practice and ask what are the constraints for achieving precision in architectural design.



“Modulated Modularity. From mass customisation to custom mass production”

Supervisors PhD Renee Puusepp, PhD Antoine Picon

Modulated modularity proposes an algorithmic method for approaching modularity in architecture in the age of automation. This method of spatial and tectonic modulation is based on the experience gained by developing experimental projects for industrial pre-fabrication and efficient assembly, utilising available standard materials within the practice of PART Architects.
The research looks at the current state of industrial pre-fabrication and modular construction strategies as well as integrated design methods within the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry and developments within the discipline of digital architecture over the past 30 years. In parallel, the relationship between the two fields is studied through a series of experimental projects ranging from installations to buildings and infrastructural objects.
The dissertation looks at topics such as: algorithmic architecture and the crisis of pavilion architecture; modularity and pre-fab construction; building information modelling; integrated design; automation, standardisation and creativity; the politics of digitalisation and the aesthetics of modulated modularity.



Supervisor PhD Maroš Krivy

The spatial order of the world is urban and its history is one of circulation. Therefore, researching mobility infrastructure can offer particularly valuable insights for urban studies, revealing geometries of power. My thesis delves into the particular controversies around planning and delivering Rail Baltica, analysing the economic and political context of the particular time and location. Considering capital and circulation as the defining agents of urbanisation, my research investigates the motivation of various stakeholders against the global challenges as well as local impacts of large scale infrastructural renewal by combining a topological mapping of the planning process with qualitative case studies.


An architecture for the post-participatory condition

Supervisor PhD Maroš Krivy

In my thesis I work towards constructing a framework for understanding participatory practices in architecture today. As suggested by the title’s prefix ‘post’ I work from the position that the conditions for what participation mean have changed since it emerged as a concept in the 1960s.

Developed in post-war Europe to counterbalance the principles of modern architecture: that space can be controlled through organization, participatory practices in architecture originate from what can be called ‘responsive architecture’. I look at projects developed in this spirit by figures such as Cedric Price, Yona Friedman, Jan Gehl. These projects stress the importance of adaptability, new technologies, user involvement and are often represented by flexible, often abstract structures, in order to suggest the ways in which space in turn can be manipulated by its inhabitants.

Faced with the same environmental, social and technological issues these ideas have resurfaced in contemporary architectural practice at different scales. With the experience of contemporary capitalism that precisely rely on adaptability, user involvement and active participation, these practices can be criticized as redundant today. The intention of my thesis is not (only) to criticize and advise against reapplying the concepts from the 1960s, but to identify the arguments that influence or are repeated in architectural form today.


Kureeritud elurikkus linnakeskkonna globaalmuutuste leevendajana: väärtussüsteemide suunamine maastikuarhitektuuri lahendustega (tööpealkiri)

Supervisor PhD Urve Sinijärv

Doktoritöö ülesanne on mõtestada maastikuarhitektuuri distsipliinina positsioonis, kus vastavate võtetega on sel võimalik toimida leevendavate meetmete kogumina. Globaalmuutuste põhjused on lokaalsed ehk et saanud alguse kohalikul tasandil tehtud otsustest ja tegevustest. Nende muutustega tegelemine peab samuti algama kohalikest otsustest. Kuigi muutused on olemuselt reaalteaduslikud, siis lahendused neile peituvad järjest enam humanitaarteadustes ehk tuleb tegeleda inimeste suhtumiste ja veendumustega. Globaalmuutuste põhjuseks ei ole halvad kavatsused, vaid üldsuse tahtlik teadmatus. Sellest on saanud majandusressurss, mille pinnalt saab teha majandusest juhitud otsuseid, hoolimata olulistest väärtussüsteemidest.

Globaalprobleemidele lahenduste otsimine lokaalsel tasandil ei lahenda loomulikult globaalprobleeme endid (kliima, õhusaaste), kuid tervendab süsteemi osi (elurikkus, vee- ja pinnaseveesaaste) ning kui kõik tegelevad oma lokaalprobleemidega kohalikult, terveneb süsteem tervikuna.

Milline väärtussüsteem takistab meil siduda linna loodusega üheks tervikuks, lõikamata teda sealt välja? Millises väärtusruumis me liigume, millised on peamised draiverid ja motivaatorid moraalsete otsuste tegemiseks elukeskkonna osas? Mitteantropotsentriliste väärtusotsuste tegemiseks tuleb väärtusruum lahti mõtestada, kollektiivset väärtussüsteemi analüüsida ja põhjendada, leida alternatiivid pragmatismist ja majanduskasvust juhitud väärtusotsustele, et leida tasakaal ratsionaalse suhtumise ja keskkonnateadlikkuse vahel, võttes arvesse kõiki heaks inimeluks vajalikke aspekte. Kuna keskkonna olukord on juba nii halb, tuleb esikohale seada mitte indiviidi heaolu, vaid inimeste kui liigi, mis tähendab hoopis teistsuguseid otsuseid igal tasandil. Inimene kui liik sõltub looduse hüvedest, ilma ta hukkub. Seega tuleb bioloogilisest vaatepunktist käsitlemist leidvale probleemile töötada välja sotsiaalsed lahendused, mille kaudu mõjutada inimeste väärtussüsteeme. Nende pealt tekivad väärtushinnangud, mis on omakorda aluseks moraalsete ja eetiliste otsuste langetamisel, väärtushierarhia tekkel.



Supervisor PhD Jüri Soolep


Supervisor PhD Maroš Krivy

ROEMER van TOORN (exstern)