Jessica Varner is a PhD candidate in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her dissertation Chemical Desires (1851–1929): Making the Architectural Materials of Modernity looks at the rise of chemicals within architectural building materials, specifically in North America, Germany, North America, England, and Australia. In particular, her research locates shifts in chemical knowledge, architectural use, advertising, corporate formation, R&D in chemical engineering, mass-production practices, and global effects within the aesthetic debates in architectural modernism and beyond. She will use her stay as a pre-doctoral fellow at the MPIWG to investigate the role of BASF in global advertising and production of synthetic architectural colorings and coatings in the late nineteenth century. Her research has been supported by grants and fellowships, including from the MIT Presidential Fellowship, MIT MISTI India and Germany, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and the Graham Foundation.
Jessica received a MSc from the University of Nebraska (2005), and a M.Arch (2008) and a MED (2014, History) from Yale University with a thesis on the expertise debates in the 1970s between the climate scientists and architects in the publication CoEvolutionary Quarterly (California). She is also an architect and began teaching architecture at the University of Southern California and Woodbury University in Los Angeles in 2009, while practicing architecture in Los Angeles (CA) at Michael Maltzan Architecture. Prior co-edited titles include Retrospecta 06/07 (Yale, 2007), Paul Rudolph: Writing on Architecture (Yale, 2009), and No More Play (Hatje Cantz, 2011).