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Sekler, Eduard F[ranz]

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Place Born:  Vienna, Austria

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Osgood Hooker Professor of Visual Art Emeritus; professor of architecture emeritus, Harvard University. Sekler graduated with a degree (with distinction) in architecture from its Technical University, Vienna, working as a practicing architect in the city beginning in 1946,. teaching and working as a research assistant, 1945-1953 and as a lecturer 1953. He moved to London and continued study at the School of Planning and Regional Research. In London, Sekler worked under Rudolf Wittkower Warburg Institute, Univeristy of London. Sekeler's wrote a dissertation on the evolution of the staircase in British architecture, granted by the Warburg in 1948. His work led to the publication of Wren and his Place in European Architecture in 1956, the first serious attempt to explore the influences on that British architect. Sekler began lecturing at Harvard's design school in 1955 as a visiting professor, advancing to associate professor in 1956. Walter Gropius the previous Harvard’s architecture department, Graduate School of Design between 1938 and 1952, being a vigorous Bauhaus modernist, had eliminated architectural history courses from the School. His successor, Josep Lluis Sert (1902-1983) appointed Sekler to counter that. In 1960, Sekler was made full professor at the architecture school. During these years, Sekler reversed the anti-historical tradition of the School by introducing courses and building an architectural-history library. He was assisted in this by another part-time faculty at the GSD--formerly full faculty at Harvard--Sigfried Giedion. Giedion’s view of architectural history, however, was that all periods and styles were the road to the ultimate goal, modernism (Hoffman). Sekler, in his courses, took a more diverse view. As a lecturer, he instilled an enthusiasm for architectural history, including, for example, Cistercian architecture, kindling an enthusiasm in one student later to become an eminent Cistercian architectural historian, Peter Fergusson. Sekler taught in proximity to Harvard's eminent historian of medieval architecture, Kenneth Conant. Sekler also developed an interest in cultural and architectural heritage of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal eventually as part of a UNESCO project. When Sert, along with Albert Szabo founded the university's Visual and Environmental Studies department in 1968, Sekler was added to the faculty. He continued his interest in Nepal preservation, founding the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust in 1990.

Sekler's primary appointment was at Harvard remained in the Graduate School of Design, training practicing architects in architectural history. His pioneering book, Wren and his Place in European Architecture, effectively explored the architect's continental sources (Summerson). He "devoted his professional career to securing a place for history in contemporary architecture.” (Hoffman). In contrast to Conant's approach to medieval history at Harvard, “the form of Cistercian monasteries became clear through an examination of the daily functions of monastic life [for Sekler]” (Weese). LS

Home Country:   Austria/United States

Sources: [mentioned] Summerson, John. "Margaret Dickens Whinney, 1894-1975." Proceedings of the British Academy 68 (1982): 641; Fergusson, Peter. "Acknowledgements." Architecture of Solitude: Cistercian Abbeys in Twelfth-Century England. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984, p. xxii;   Form, Modernism, and History: Essays in Honor of Eduard F. Sekler. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Graduate School of Design/Harvard Unversity Press, 1996, specifically, Hoffman, Alexander von.  “Seeking a Place for History:  An Introduction.” pp. ix-xi, McCue, Gerald. “The Dedicated Teacher: [A] Conversation.” pp. 225-228, Weese, Ben. “What I Learned at Harvard.” pp 219-221;  [transcript]  Eduard Sekler,  Interviews with Art Historians, 1991-2002. Getty Research Institute, Malibu, CA.

Bibliography: [bibliography:] Sekler, Mary Patricia May. “Bibliography of Eduard Franz Sekler.” Form, Modernism, and History: Essays in Honor of Eduard F. Sekler. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Graduate School of Design/Harvard Unversity Press, 1996, pp 233-240; [dissertation:] The Development of the British Staircase. University of London, 1948;  Wren and his Place in European Architecture. New York: Macmillan, 1956; Le Corbusier at Work: the Genesis of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978; Josef Hoffmann, das architektonische Werk: Monographie und Werkverzeichnis. Vienna: Residenz Verlag, 1982, English, Josef Hoffmann: the Architectural Work: Monograph and Catalogue of Works. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985; Yearning for Beauty: the Wiener Werkstätte and the Stoclet House. Vienna: MAK/Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2006.

Subject's name: Eduard Sekler