For someone who had initially planned to pursue a career in culinary arts growing up, stepping into Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (Harvard GSD) was more than just a dream come true. It is a shared memory and an emotional journey between 24-year-old Safeer Shersad and his late father, who was instrumental in leading Safeer towards his true calling in life.
Safeer, a student from India, is the first recipient of the Gennosuke Obata Fellowship Fund established by NIPSEA Group, known throughout Asia as Nippon Paint. With the fund, Safeer is attending the prestigious Harvard GSD as a candidate of the Master in Urban Planning. Beyond academic scholarship, Safeer spends his time outside the classroom partnering with local planning authorities to address issues affecting marginalised members of the community.
“I am very grateful for the support from Nippon Paint and the Gennosuke Obata Fellowship Fund. Harvard GSD’s studio pedagogy has given me the opportunity to work with real clients on pressing challenges facing the world today, such as creating inclusive participatory tools, ameliorating the impacts of climate change through renewable energy provision, and designing public housing for older adults and immigrant populations. It is truly a privilege to be part of a peer group that inspires me to collaborate on projects that address the needs of the communities that need it the most,” said Safeer Shersad. “I hope to continue this work of tackling global dilemmas and strains that face underprivileged communities through my academic and professional work.”
Safeer’s father, a doctor who dedicated his life to healing others, had always emphasized the value of service, education, and life-long learning to his children. Unfortunately, his sudden demise left the family in anguish and grief. Reeling from this loss but determined to uphold his father’s principles of uncompromising work ethic, Safeer worked on a tight schedule to complete his standardized tests and application requirements in just two weeks. This successful application successfully secured a candidacy for the masters program at the Harvard GSD. Through the Gennosuke Obata Fellowship Fund, Safeer was awarded US$20,000 to pursue his goals of providing inclusive urban design solutions to solve global challenges at the local level.
Safeer is a firm believer that cities should cater to the needs of all of their inhabitants. Applying design to empower marginalized communities has always been an important priority for Safeer, and one of his life goals is to design solutions to address such needs. Over this past summer, he worked with NBBJ, a global design firm, on the Boston Downtown Plan – a comprehensive planning project which aims to accommodate Boston’s growing population while retaining the Downtown’s dense, historic fabric. As part of this plan, he worked on mapping baseline geospatial data, and using these indicators to develop public realm recommendations to create inclusive public spaces in the downtown of one of the most iconic cities in the world.
“Safeer showed academic excellence, curiosity and potential in my first semester core studio, where he created a masterplan and participatory strategy for an industrial site in South Boston. He is now a teaching assistant for this studio, and effectively guides my students to build up their technical skills in research and representation. With an interest in design, strategic planning and transportation, Safeer is well positioned to take advantage of the multi-disciplinary curriculum and engagement offered at the GSD, and I am excited about his future,” said Toni L. Griffin, Professor in Practice of Urban Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
The Gennosuke Obata Fellowship Fund was established by Nippon Paint to provide talented young designers funding toward a world-class design education at Harvard GSD. The fund was created as part of Nippon Paint’s commitment to equip young Asian design talents with knowledge and skills to address challenges relating to Asia’s need for urbanisation solutions in a rapidly-growing population.
“Nippon Paint believes that education is the key to helping design talents develop skills and achieve sustained advancement for their professional development. We are passionate about leading initiatives to help groom gamechangers in Asia, and hope to build a strong support ecosystem through world-class education providers such as Harvard GSD. We believe that young designers should harness the intention of using design to better the lives of the people and bring this mindset with them as they enter the professional field,” said Mr Wee Siew Kim, CEO of NIPSEA Group.
In addition to the Gennosuke Obata Fellowship Fund, Nippon Paint has also developed another global initiative known as the Asia Young Designer Awards (AYDA). It is a platform that allows young design talents to identify pressing world or community needs and propose design solutions to address these issues. Established in 2008, the AYDA has grown to become one of Asia’s premier design awards, and students in Asia get to receive hands-on learning opportunities from key industry players as well as fellow architecture and interior design peers in the region. To take part in the next instalment of AYDA, students can visit https://www.asiayoungdesignerawards.com/ to find out more and register for participation.
About The Gennosuke Obata Fellowship Fund
The Gennosuke Obata Fellowship Fund provides financial aid to Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (Harvard GSD) students from Asian countries, helping to attract, enroll, and support talented design scholars from the region as they work to become leaders in transforming the social and built environment. Nippon Paint gifted $300,000 to establish The Gennosuke Obata Fellowship Fund, including $50,000 for immediate use to benefit students at Harvard GSD. The remainder of the gift is invested in Harvard GSD’s endowment, leveraging these dollars for future support. The Gennosuke Obata Fellowship Fund represents Nippon Paint’s next step in investing in young design leaders, on top of the company’s commitment to nurture the next generation of talented designers, reflected in its Asia Young Designer Awards (AYDA).
About NIPSEA Management Co Pte Ltd (NIPSEA Group)
NIPSEA Group was founded by entrepreneur Mr. Goh Cheng Liang in Singapore in 1962. NIPSEA has established its position as one of the largest coating and paint specialist in Asia, known in the marketplace by its brand as “Nippon Paint” and is responsible for expanding its operation and development of Nippon Paint in Asia. It has become the best coating partner for architectural, automotive, industrial, marine, O&G, specialised clients and millions of families across the world. The brand is recognised for its dedication to quality, dazzling innovation and excellent customer service.
With more than 70 NIPSEA companies spread throughout Asia, NIPSEA understands the local needs of its customers in every community. The company embraces diversity and operates as a multinational corporation. NIPSEA Group has over 23,000 employees with over 80 manufacturing facilities and operations in 17 geographical locations with its headquarters in Singapore, efficiently serving all aspects of the business, from production to customer satisfaction. For more information about NIPSEA Group, please visit http://www.nipponpaint.com/.
About the Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Founded in 1936, the Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (Harvard GSD) has roots dating back to 1874, when academic degree programs in architecture and landscape architecture emerged at the university. Harvard often is credited with founding the disciplines of landscape architecture and city planning prior to the establishment of the school and founding the discipline of urban design in the 1960s.
As the premier design school in the world, Harvard GSD has a legacy of leadership, innovation, and social responsibility. The school sets global standards for design education, regularly ranking number one in two of its core disciplines. Harvard GSD alumni and faculty are world renowned for creating the modern era’s most iconic buildings, landscapes, and city plans, and the school is proud to have the highest number of Pritzker Prize winners and AIA Fellows of any design school.
Today, Harvard GSD continues to explore with authority urgent issues facing cities around the world, synthesizing research and practice in a collaborative, holistic approach that empowers the design community to have a significant impact on the built environment. For more information about Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, please visit www.gsd.harvard.edu.
For media enquiries, please contact:
Tel. : +65 9049 9129
Tel. : +65 8862 9800
APPENDIX: BIOGRAPHY OF SAFEER SHERSAD
Safeer is an urban designer and planner who is currently a candidate of the Master in Urban Planning program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (Harvard GSD), where he is concentrating in urban analytics. His research interests include the intersections of transportation policy on housing and real estate markets, management and sociability in public space, and collaborative planning strategies. Prior to joining Harvard, he worked as an urban designer in England, where he was a part of the Worcester City Centre 2040 comprehensive plan, a landscape and urban design strategy for the University of Wolverhampton. He also worked in the public sector in London at Harrow Council, where he was responsible for the Harrow Sister Cities initiative, which created long-term cultural connections to 27 European cities through street art installations.
He received his bachelor’s degree in architecture and Urban Planning from Newcastle University, and his Master of Science in Urban Design and City Planning with Distinction at the Barlett School of Planning at the University College London, which is accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute, as well as the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. His student research on developing a playability framework for privately-managed public spaces in the City of London was presented at England’s National Urban Design Conference, as well as the prestigious Barlett Planning Expo. He also conducted research on retaining and integrating industrial land with mixed-use development for Just Space, a community-led planning non-profit. This research was used to inform Mayor Sadiq Khan’s London Plan, and was presented at the London Works seminar series and the Barking and Dagenham Participatory Cities exhibition. He is currently working on adapting this strategy to the context of South Boston. He is an active member of the Civicwise collaboration network, as well as the Academy of Urbanism’s Young Urbanist group. Prior to moving to England, he grew up in Dubai, and has a fine-grain understanding of Dubai’s evolution over time, as well as its cultural and physical context.
Having lived in multiple countries, he has a keen interest in international development and hopes to employ the skills gained at Harvard GSD to effect change in developing countries with an international organisation like UN-Habitat.