Dennis Doxtater

Professor Emeritus of Architecture


  • Architecture
  • School of Architecture

Areas of Expertise

  • Cultural landscapes
  • History of ritual
  • Landscape patterns
  • Mapping


What, after thirty years of research and teaching in architecture, do I believe in? I somewhat accidentally wandered into social anthropology by being trained for Peace Corps Peru service by applied anthropologists at Cornell University. On my return, a graduate degree in anthropology seemed like the most interesting thing to do; another significant dimension to this orientation was added working part time for landscape architects in Seattle. After becoming licensed in the state of Washington, a choice had to be made. Practice or academic research and teaching? The new D.Arch. degree at Michigan, in conjunction with their anthropology and environmental psychology departments was the route to the latter. Many years have since been spent attempting to persuade architectural students and faculty that cultural dimensions and not unrelated landscape contexts are critical to successful designed settings. In many ways these issues may today be more relevant than ever. Given the tsunami dimensions of contemporary information processes, the design fields must undertake a huge shift in the way we conduct practice. The goal is to more fully understand, document, share, and market that which makes architects most unique, namely the ability to fit human experience to physical settings. Of this, cultural beliefs and values of users form a foundational part. But before we can accomplish this, we must deconstruct our own design subculture and its self-referential means of evaluation, replacing it with inclusive processes of input from the real cultures to be served. The integration of landscape is essential as well. The social and cultural dimensions of the greater natural and urban landscape must always set the initial context for authentic smaller scale interventions. Without these changes, I feel, architecture cannot participate to its potential in the quest for a more sustainable world.

Current Research Topics

Dennis Doxtater is currently researching the positioning of archaeological sites in large-scale contexts of landscape geometry, i.e. "georitual" in the Native American Southwest, on Minoan Crete and in Scandinavia. Before becoming emeritus, he recently taught a specialized design studio using custom software to investigate the symbolic linkage of large-scale landscapes to contemporary architectural settings, e.g. interpretative centers and spiritual settings such as spas, churches, residences, community foci, etc. Also recent was the required professional course in architectural programming, with the goal of understanding five basic human experiences in physical settings: way-finding, task performance, social territories, cultural expression, and visual/non-visual aesthetics.

Published Papers and Reports

Unpublished Papers

Recent Chaired Master’s Thesis

Consideration of Human Behavior in Designing a Green Office Space for Environmentalists: A Simulation Study.  Yasaman Haji Esmaili  (thesis is in two parts)