The Inaugural Eduard Sekler Scholarship Recipient: Francisco Colom MDes ’19

Sekler photo

Pictured above from left: Michael F. “Mick” Doyle MArch ’77, Francisco Colom MDes ’19, and Pat Sekler AM ’58, PhD ’73, BF ’76 (the late Professor Sekler’s wife) at the GSD’s Grounded Visionaries Campaign Celebration in April 2018.

As the first Eduard Sekler Fellow, Francisco Colom MDes ’19 is embracing the legacy of the beloved Professor Sekler through his work in conservation and the tensions between progress and tradition. Colom is an architect, urban designer, and Master in Design Studies (MDes) candidate at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD). Eduard Franz Sekler served on the Harvard University faculty for more than 50 years at both the GSD and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Among his numerous achievements was co-founding the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies and advocating for the preservation of cultural and architectural sites around the world.

The Eduard Sekler Fellowship Fund was created to honor Professor Sekler’s legacy at the GSD. Mick Doyle MArch ’77, who first met Professor Sekler as a GSD student, then teaching assistant, and who maintained a life-long friendship and association with Professor Sekler through projects including the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust, led the effort. A broad range of alumni and friends supported the fellowship, and a significant contribution from Dr. Ellen Phoebe “Epi” Wiese PhD ’53, PhD ’59 ensured the Eduard Sekler Fellowship Fund at the GSD in perpetuity.

Sekler’s passion for preservation lives on in the work of Colom and his MDes concentration of Critical Conservation, which provides designers, real estate professionals, planners, and others with a foundation to understand the cultural systems that frame conflicts inherent in making progressive places. Colom’s research focuses on embedded and temporal cultural systems, the tensions between progress and tradition, and the way clashes of meaning and identity are registered by the built environment. His thesis considers the Maison Tropicale, a prefabricated housing system originally designed by architect Jean Prouvé to address the shortage of housing in French colonies in West Africa during the 1950s and how Western media and institutions use modernist architecture as a tool for cultural domination today. Colom serves as Teaching Assistant for the course “Conservation, Destruction, and Curating Impermanence” and is the editor of More Than Green, a project directed by a platform of professionals and academicians that promotes a holistic understanding of sustainability in the urban environment.

“By awarding me the Sekler Fellowship, you have lightened my financial burden which allows me to focus more on the most important aspect of school, learning,” wrote Colom to Pat Sekler AM ’58, PhD ’73, BF ’76. He continues: “I will work very hard to make the most of this opportunity. Thank you again for your generosity and support.”

Colom received his Master of Architecture degree with honors from the University of Alicante in Spain and was appointed Honorary Professor of the Department of Architectural Design. Professional highlights include a diverse range of architectural and urban projects in the Netherlands, Spain, Azerbaijan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. His work has been exhibited at the 15th and 16th Venice Architecture Biennale and his academic research grants include the Fundacion La Caixa Fellowship, the European Union Tempo Project Scholarship, and the Harvard GSD Community Service Fellowship. For his GSD Community Service Fellowship, he joined MASS Design Group, co-founded by Alan Ricks MArch ’10 and Michael Murphy MArch ’11, as a Community Service Program Fellow working in support of their mission of researching, building, and advocating for architecture that promotes justice and human dignity. His projects included collaborating on a project for the holistic improvement of a vulnerable neighborhood in Asuncion, Paraguay, in which community participation strategies were central to the design process and designing an education center to complement the program of a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia.

After graduation, Colom plans to work with fellow MDes student Maclean Sarbah MDes ’19, with the aim of finding and applying design strategies where they can potentially be most beneficial. They began the partnership with a trip to Sarbah’s native Ghana during which they reflected on the ways design can make a positive impact in the lives of people when introduced collaboratively and sensitively.

The GSD joins with Francisco Colom and the future Sekler Fellows in thanking the many alumni and friends whose generous contributions helped to establish this enduring financial aid award in memory of the incomparable Professor Eduard Sekler.

If you have questions about the Sekler Fellowship or about financial aid at the GSD, please contact Joe Chart at jchart@gsd.harvard.edu or at 617-384-8604.