Edward A. Eigen is Senior Lecturer in the History of Landscape and Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. A historian of the long nineteenth century, in the European and Anglo-American contexts, his research and teaching focus on relationships in and between humanistic and scholarly traditions and the natural sciences and allied practices of knowledge production. With a background in art history, a professional training in design, and a doctorate in the history and theory of architecture from MIT, he is at home with and seeks to productively defamiliarize images, texts, and topographies of intricate description. A proponent of the Montaignian essay tradition, his writings, while ultimately grounded in the uncertain terrain of “landscape,” have ranged from questions of botanical and zoological systematics, the creation and loss of great and not so great museums and libraries, the history of the weather, and acts of plagiarism in the founding documents of architecture theory. All of these studies engage in questions of historical narrative and the species of evidence upon which it depends and/or invents along the way.
Eigen was an assistant professor at the Princeton University School of Architecture, where he was an Old Dominion Faculty Fellow, and the recipient of a university-wide graduate mentoring award, and the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Grant for his research on architectural machines. His article on the prestidigitator Robert-Houdin’s invention of the doorbell will appear as “Controlling: Comfort in the Modern Home,” in Architecture and Technics: A Theoretical Field Guide to Practice. At the GSD, Eigen co-organized the colloquium “Claiming Landscape as Architecture,” which appeared as a special issue of Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes, of which he is an Associate Editor. His recent book, On Accident: Episodes in Architecture and Landscape (MIT Press), seeks to reclaim and provide forms of interpretability for unfamiliar incidents and artifacts that fall outside the canon. His current monograph project, Beyond the Rose Garden, examines real and emblematic landscapes and architectures associated with the administrations of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford, including the “grassy knoll,” the Highway Beautification Act, Watergate, and the Bicentennial Time Capsule.