Who was Gensler? | Moscone Convention Centre

The Moscone Convention Centre – A man who began small with a firm run by threesome, and ignited into one of the world’s largest firms, Millard Arthur Gensler Jr., was an American architect, interior designer, and entrepreneur—born to parents Millard Arthur Gensler and Gertrude Gensler on the 12th of July, 1935. He completed his schooling in Hartford, Connecticut, in the USA, before migrating to Cornell University, New York, where he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in architecture. He believed that education could not be taught just during class hours but majorly learned from the outside world. He thus loved the vibrant atmosphere of New York and would spend more time interacting with people as well as playing soccer and tennis.

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Art Gensler_ ©archdaily.com/961451/art-Gensler-founder-of-Gensler-passes-away-at-85

The Gensler Architectural Firm 

Gensler then moved on to San Francisco, where he, along with his wife Drue Gensler and pal James Follet the firm M. Arthur Gensler Jr. & Associates Inc., currently known as Gensler, in 1956. His vision was that the company was not just ‘him’ but that if the designers and the clients came together, the biggest challenges of society could be handled. A few of his famous designs include the San Francisco International Airport and the Shanghai Tower. He published his first book ‘Art’s Principles’ in 2015. Unfortunately, after a successful 65-year career, Gensler, who breathed life into architecture, passed away at his home at the age of 85, suffering from lung disease.  

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Gensler with his first Employee Jim_©arccadigest.org

The Moscone Convention Centre, San Francisco | Moscone Convention Centre

The George R. Moscone Convention Center, or The Moscone Convention Centre, is situated in San Francisco, California, which happens to be the largest convention and exhibition complex. The structure spanned an area of 87 acres within the South Market neighbourhood. The centre bears testimony to the former mayor  George Moscone who was believed to have been assassinated in November 1978. 

The History

The issues that arose when construction took place in residential areas happened to be the same situation here as well! During the 1960s and 1970s, the site within the residential area chosen for the convention centre was asserted possession by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, leading to a conflict between them and the low-income residents who feared their displacement. Although the convention centre happened to be named after the mayor, he had initially refused the idea of construction in the already habited areas. He believed that people would lose their houses and would have to migrate elsewhere. An irony indeed tracing back the roots of the building, isn’t it? The hue finally led to a compromise in 1976, and the hall was inaugurated in the year 1981. 

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Moscone Convention Center Exterior_ ©structurae.net

The Salient Features

The hall is under the ownership of The City and County of San Francisco. The exhibition complex was originally believed to have been designed by the team of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK), led by Bill Valentine. To subdue the ongoing issues associated with the construction to an extent, the center was located underground to minimize the visible footprint. The entire complex consisted of three major halls spread out across three blocks that were gradually designed and developed every decade over 30 years. 

The Moscone South was the structure constructed initially in 1981, followed by the Esplanade Ballroom and Moscone North which were completed in 1991 and 92 respectively, followed by Moscone West which opened up in 2003 and 2019 and saw massive improvements to the North and the South blocks.

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The Interiors_©Cesar Rubio

The Expansion | Moscone Convention Centre

Owing to the structure’s location underground as a result of its footprint, it resulted in a lot of dark and disconnected spaces. They weren’t connected with the world. Thus, the expansion of the centre was taken up by Gensler along with Hunt Construction Group as the general contractor and firm SOM. Gensler converted these shady areas into light-filled spaces, most importantly well-integrated with the public realms with his principle of “inside-out. To cope with the existing trends of exhibition spaces in the USA requires the addition of more contiguous space. That would reinvigorate the entire complex. 

It thus resulted in an addition of about 157,000 gross square feet of the area dedicated to flexible meeting spaces to Moscone North and South. The existing lobbies were extended to approximately 60,000 square feet. Two additional stories of column-free meeting spaces also include a ballroom. The circulation for convention attendees was enhanced further by providing a pair of new pedestrian bridges. The earlier disconnected exhibition spaces could now function together as one.  

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Expansion of Moscone Center_©David Wakely

The West Hall was expanded when there arose an increase in the firm’s capacity by 45%. The expansion happened in a joint venture with Michael Willis Architects and Kwan Henmi Architecture. The design saw the inclusion of a sweeping, transparent façade, and a 112-foot tall curtain wall in the pre-function space with an extended canopy, owing to well-lit interiors and revealing the activities within, thus enlivening the surrounding environment too. Gensler bears testimony to have designed one of the tallest unsupported glass structures of the era! The structure was very flexible, as a result of 5,000 linear feet of moveable-ceiling hung panels.

Transparent Façade Design_©Tim Griffith

Conclusion | Moscone Convention Centre

Scaling the heights of the modern city, the expansions have also moderately reduced carbon emissions per visitor making it LEED-platinum certified and the most environmentally sustainable structure of the times after undergoing an expansion worth 551 million dollars. The structure still retains its reputation among the natives even after massive additions, cutting-edge technologies, and much greater flexibility. 


  1. En.wikipedia.org.2022. Moscone Center – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moscone_Center> [Accessed 30 July 2022].
  2. Gensler. 2022. Moscone Convention Center | Projects | Gensler. [online] Available at: <https://www.gensler.com/projects/moscone-convention-center?q=moscone> [Accessed 30 July 2022].
  3. Gensler. 2022. Moscone Convention Center | Projects | Gensler. [online] Available at: <https://www.gensler.com/projects/moscone-convention-center?q=moscone> [Accessed 30 July 2022].
  4. Gensler. 2022. Moscone Convention Center | Projects | Gensler. [online] Available at: <https://www.gensler.com/projects/moscone-convention-center?q=moscone> [Accessed 30 July 2022]

Alamu Priya is a budding conservation architect pursuing her final year of masters from SPA, Vijayawada. An avid reader and writer, she believes that words create a profound impact on people and can be used as a weapon to unveil the magic behind architecture.