“Design to me is a big-picture attitude. How it’s going to interact with your surroundings and with the people who are going to use it.” – Art Gensler
Introduction to Gensler
Gensler, a famous global architecture, design, and planning firm spread across 52 countries worldwide, began its journey in 1965 in a one-room storefront in San -Francisco by three young architects from Cornell University Arthur Gensler, his wife Drue Gensler and their associate James Follett.
Arthur Gensler Jr. or famously known as Art Gensler was born in New York, America; he was an aspiring entrepreneur and a passionate architect who dreamt of architecture since he was five years old and loved to play with blocks and Lincoln logs. He later realized his love for Interiors and how they touched people’s lives. After graduating from Cornell University’s College of Architecture in 1958, he worked with a few architects, later opening his firm with less capital. The namesake firm got its recognition because of its pioneering approach to the architectural discipline of Tenant Development, which is designing and building interior spaces for office tenants. His vision of a collaborative culture that emphasizes a selfless client-first design approach has become a characteristic of Gensler’s trait and has helped propel the firm to global prominence.
“Most architects were looking at buildings from the outside, from the form of the building. Art was looking at it from the user experience, from people’s experience,” says Andy Cohen, co-CEO of Gensler. “To this day, we are always focused on what he called inside-out design.”
Gensler works on the ideology of Arthur Gensler of one-firm culture by empowering every individual and working seamlessly as an interconnected firm as a group of constellations instead of a Starchitect. The firm has had a part in several designs, from skyscrapers to corporate interiors and retail shops. The most significant examples are Shanghai Tower, San Francisco International Airport terminals, Las Vega City Center, Offices for Microsoft and Apple, U.S Embassy in London, and others.
One such example of a corporative workspace is One Microsoft Company in Dublin, Ireland.
One Microsoft Place: A Human-centric Approach
Microsoft Corporation, a leading developer of personal-computer software systems and applications, has had several places to operate from in Dublin. The idea was not only to bring all 2000 employees of 72 nationalities into one location but also to break down barriers and find new ways of working to empower employees, optimize operations and engage customers by creating a unified space.
Microsoft’s main idea was to create spaces that encourage chance encounters and purposeful collisions. People from various departments should be able to meet and greet each other instead of being consolidated under one roof.
The challenge to the interior designers of Gensler was to create a workplace that would unite the employees within a personalized campus catering to their individual needs for expression, authenticity, and requirements. According to Amanda Baldwin, a senior associate at Gensler, this was addressed in a very human-centric approach. They studied carefully how employees and visitors would interact in the new work environment, how they would harvest its resources and flourish and succeed as it would be the first time all these teams would work together. This led to one of the most exciting projects in Microsoft’s portfolio.
Design idea: Bringing the landscape.
Based on these ideas, Gensler, in collaboration with RKD Architects, designed a unique workspace that can promote well-being and productivity, which would break the standard patterns and prenotions of the workspace.
A 330,000 square feet single campus in Leopardstown, Dublin, Ireland, has an exterior facade of anodized aluminium panels and gargantuan windows, giving it a functional look with reflective panels, curtain walls, and anodized rain-screen cladding. The façades incorporate solar shading, where necessary, to minimize solar glare and solar gain.
The main design idea for the interiors was derived from the landscape of the surroundings of Ireland and incorporated into the design. Treating the workforce as the community, Gensler wanted to “unearth a way of connecting everyone and everything”. This was achieved by creating a central island- the main atrium around which all “typical island components” were translated into a functional workspace. “Harbour” is the arrival point, “beach” is a social gathering space, “grasslands” are the open workspaces, and “caves” are focus rooms.
The stairs resemble the mountain that is meticulously designed with wooden louvres and uneven steps. A digital waterfall of 125000 LEDs streams down different levels in the centre of the atrium, where it falls into the “lake” that is colour-changing tiles and grey flooring with black benches replicating the rock formation around the lake. Along with the atrium, there are bakeries and markets, kitchens, multi-use lounges, client meeting suites, and Dream Space for children’s IT-related classes.
The first to fourth floor consists of open floor plan “grasslands” where formal and informal meeting rooms can be conducted and are collectively called “neighbourhoods”. According to Amanda Baldwin, “Employees want a space that inspires them, connects them to nature, is designed with their individual needs in mind, and offers a community-like atmosphere. The neighbourhood concept aligns with the progression of Microsoft’s interior design: its spaces are becoming more relaxed, warm, and intimate – less corporate.” These neighbourhoods are interconnected with “trails”- the connecting corridors where fortuitous meet and greet happens. The trails meet in the atrium, and all the windows and openings on the upper floors face the atrium providing systematic transparency where employees can collaborate, socialize and learn. The central space of the atrium opens up to the skylight bringing in the light and allure.
A wide range of seating of around 3000 capacities has spread across open floors where executives and interns can sit together, which helps in achieving Microsoft’s agenda of wanting to shift employee workspaces from ownership to membership. The monotonous palette of the floor and walls are broken through the addition of bright lights, coloured fixtures, and vivid red beams and columns.
One Microsoft One Campus: A global community
People spend the most amount of their time in their workplace, which becomes an inbuilt community on its own. As the community does more than only work, a lifestyle had to be formed which caters to the mixed uses inside the campus. This was achieved by Gensler by including amenities such as a gym, music room, yoga studio, massage treatment rooms, kitchens on every floor, spice cultivations, and several other spaces that benefit physical, holistic, and mental well-being. Seventy experts, in collaboration with Gensler, from landscape designers to brand specialists, worked towards bringing this aspirational concept to life. Relaxing, socializing, and physical activity spaces offer plenty of informal opportunities for hanging out but more so exchanging information and experiences. Thereby making it a global community that feels local.
Microsoft’s principle of creating a “people-centric” environment has also always been the foundation of Gensler. This harmonized the balance between the client-architect approach making a pathway to one of the most successful, multi-award-winning, monumental campuses. According to Amanda Baldwin, “Our priority was to connect everyone to everything in a meaningful way, creating an active workplace where the movement was both facilitated and enjoyable”, which indeed was achieved where One Microsoft Place did not only bring people together but also has been a collective space for all the employees belonging to different departments, hierarchies, and nationalities.
- M. Arthur Gensler Jr.: People Gensler. Available at: https://www.gensler.com/people/m-arthur-gensler-jr?q=arthur+gensler
- Gehlke, G. (2021) A towering legacy: Art Gensler designed some of the world’s largest landmarks, Local News Matters. Available at: https://localnewsmatters.org/2021/05/15/a-towering-legacy-art-gensler-designed-some-of-the-worlds-largest-landmarks.
- One Microsoft Place, Ireland: Projects Gensler. Available at: https://www.gensler.com/projects/one-microsoft-place-ireland?k=microsoft&l=search&s=date.
- Awards. design (no date) One Microsoft place, BETTER FUTURE. Available at: https://awards.design/LON18/project.asp?ID=17520.
- India Block |12 October 2018 Leave a comment (2021) Gensler and RKD Architects create a digital waterfall for Microsoft Ireland’s HQ, Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2018/10/12/gensler-microsoft-ireland-office-dublin-digital-waterfall-architecture.
- One Microsoft Place – World Buildings Directory: Architecture Search Engine (no date) World Buildings Directory Architecture Search Engine. Available at: https://www.worldbuildingsdirectory.com/entries/one-microsoft-place/ (Accessed: November 6, 2022).