Remembering Eduard Sekler, 1920–2017

Eduard Sekler

Eduard Franz Sekler, Harvard University’s Osgood Hooker Professor of Visual Art Emeritus and Professor of Architecture Emeritus at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, passed away last week at the age of 96. An architect and historian of architecture, Professor Sekler first came to Harvard in 1953, as a Fulbright Scholar. Two years later, Graduate School of Design Dean Josep Lluis Sert invited him to join the GSD faculty. From 1966 to 1976, he served as the first director of the Carpenter Center. He co-founded Harvard’s Visual and Environmental Studies (VES) department in 1968, alongside the late Albert Szabo. All told, Professor Sekler served on the Harvard University faculty for over 50 years.

A native of Vienna, Professor Sekler received professional training in architecture at the Vienna University of Technology before moving to London to study under Rudolf Wittkower at the School of Planning and Regional Research. He graduated with a PhD in the history of art from London University’s Warburg Institute in 1948, and came to the United States as a Fulbright Fellow in 1953. Among his many contributions to Harvard, Professor Sekler co-founded the University’s Visual and Environmental Studies department in 1968.

A prolific writer, Professor Sekler authored, among other publications, Wren and His Place in European Architecture (1956); Research and Criticism in Architecture (1957); and co-authored with William Curtis Le Corbusier at Work: The Genesis of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts (1978). He was the recipient of numerous grants and awards throughout his career, including a Guggenheim Fellowship for the morphological study of selected historic urban spaces in Europe and Asia.

In addition to his academic pursuits, Professor Sekler was a passionate advocate for the preservation of cultural and architectural sites around the world, and worked with UNESCO on a number of projects. He was particularly dedicated to the conservation of Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley after first visiting the region in 1962. Ten years later he led the international UNESCO team for the “Masterplan for the Preservation of the Cultural Heritage of the Kathmandu Valley,” and in 1991 he founded the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT), an organization dedicated to safeguarding the built heritage of the region.

A memorial service will be held this Saturday, May 13, at 10:00 a.m. at St. Paul’s Church.