“We must recognize that design is ‘colouring outside the lines.’ Design can be the great synthesizer. Designers must be idea makers.”
Sorrow strikes yet again as the architectural community loses another soul. As Art Gensler, the founder of the world’s biggest architectural firm, took his last breath on Monday at his home in Mill Valley, following a battle with long-term illness. He was 85 years old.
The architectural legend has won numerous awards, including the American Institute of Architects’ Architecture Firm Award, the Institute’s highest honour to collaborative practice and Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016 by Design Futures Council.
The studio designed large-scale architecture projects, including the 632-metre-high supertall skyscraper, the Shanghai Tower, the world’s second-tallest structure. The studio has also designed interiors for brands like Apple and Gap. Art Gensler practised the discipline not just for creating architectural marvels but also to transform the users’ everyday lives.
“He believed that great ideas could come from anywhere, and so he listened to everyone,” said John J. Parman, who worked as an editor at Gensler from 1997 to 2019 and often interacted with the founder. And though he expected professionalism, he didn’t ask for martyrdom. One of his maxims (included in his 2015 book “Art’s Principles”) was, “It’s 6:00 p.m. Go home! Get a life!”
The firm today known for its tremendous work was founded in 1965 known as M. Arthur Gensler Jr. & Associates Inc, with just two associates at the time Art’s wife, Drue, and now business partner and then a draftsman, James Follett, while Art Genelser worked part-time with William Wurster.
When the firm began its journey, the core values defined by Art Gensler were to be adaptive, proactive, and client-centred. Even today, the associates praise him for teaching them to be opportunistic and help solve their problems. He also has a book known as ‘Art’s Principles’ published in 2015, where he discusses the lessons he has learned during his 50 years of practice as a beginner in the industry to one of the world’s leading firm.
“I’ve known since age five that I wanted to be an architect,” he told Bigelow of the Nob Hill Gazette. “It wasn’t until later that I realized how much I love doing interiors, too, because they really touch people’s lives.”
As his firm flourished over the years, from designing the lobby and exterior plaza for First Central Tower to the world’s tallest first triple-adjacent supertall buildings, Gensler Shanghai Tower, Gensler became a household name in the community.
Gensler has spread their wings in all areas of the field, whether interiors, transportation designs, commercial designs, master planning, consulting, etc. We name the field, and Gensler has provided their services.
“He has single-handedly defined the business of architecture in the United States. He brought professionalism and the notion of client service to this business that simply wasn’t there before.”
—Martin Manley, Former Assistant Secretary of Labor
Growth of Gensler
As a great leader, Gensler progressed quickly yet steadily by delivering everlasting projects, which helped the firm grow and expand across the USA in the 1970s and 1980s and then take the international arena in the 1980s and 1990s. The first non- USA office was opened in London, 1988, followed by Tokyo and Hong Kong in 1993. Finally, in 2002, Gensler opened their office in China, Shanghai, which marked their permanent presence in the country. To reach the position Gensler is at today, it took five decades of teamwork and dedication from small interior projects to a full-servicing multidisciplinary design firm with more than 5,000 associates and 50 locations across the globe.
As Gensler was increasing the standards of architecture in the market, Art Gensler also adapted to sustainable practice, making them the industry leader. His sustainable practices include Viettel Group Headquarters- Hanoi, Vietnam, The Post Office- Chicago, Illinois, Travis County Civil and Family Courts- Austin, Texas, Conservation International- Arlington, Virginia, and many more structures, Art Gensler received the U.S. Green Building Council’s prestigious President’s Award.
“Art is one of the world’s foremost experts at helping clients see the value of good design. He has a recipe for the expanding role of the architect in the 21st century. His contributions to the entire AEC Industry have been awesome.”
—James P. Cramer, Chairman/Founding Principal, Greenway Group, Chairman/Design Futures Council, Former CEO, AIA
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