“As architects and planners, we need to reconnect to the site, to place, to history, to knowledge — but also reconnect people to people, and people with buildings, all with modern techniques and advances.” — Andy Cohen, Co-CEO, Gensler
Gensler is a global design practise that was started in 1965 by Art Gensler with his wife Drew Gensler and associate James Follett in San Francisco. Today they’re a multinational architectural practice that specializes in creating meaningful and impactful urban spaces that transform surroundings while also taking into consideration the needs of the community. The motto put forth by their global team is to reimagine the future of cities as unprecedented challenges that drive them to create a better world through the power of design.
1. Repurposing Existing Spaces
Project Name: People Deck
Location: San Jose, California
In this Cities and Urban Design project by Gensler, placemaking finds a way to transcend the repurposing of a simple parking garage structure into a lively common space for people to convene, providing an urban experience for all community members.
The design team reimagined the San Pedro Square Garage to revitalize the rooftop parking deck to be converted into a ‘people deck’ with interventions that encourage social activity, learning, relaxing, exercising, and a sense of discovery.
The vision for the deck comprises different types of activity areas and topography changes that give it a park-like outdoor feel and enables sustained impact through adaptability while integrating new experiences.
2. Interventions Create Impact
Project Name: Community Blocks
Location: New York
The ‘Community Blocks’ by Gensler, with its micro-level solution, has the potential to create a macro-level impact. Amid the pandemic, this model was implemented in New York City in response to the ‘Neighborhoods Now’ initiative and has been successful in serving as a civic gathering space keeping in mind the social distancing norms.
With parts composed of off-the-shelf lumber, this product became a vital intervention as it allowed the assembling of outdoor classrooms, seating benches, and private spaces with dividers while also helping local small-scale businesses move their operations into a public realm.
With something as flexible as an outdoor kit of parts that can be arranged to produce a variety of structures, Community Blocks redefined prototype design to deliver value beyond the pandemic for a long-term community plan.
3. Spaces That Define Services
Project Name: The Avenues
Location: Kuwait City, Kuwait
Completed in 2007, ‘The Avenues’ saw a transformation in the Middle East by creating a utility-driven marketplace accompanied by recreation-influenced streets, focal meeting points, and arenas.
Essentially a hub that houses 800 stores spread across seven districts, this urban design project by Gensler is a new retail concept inspired by the great cities of the world along with the authenticity imbibed through the local culture. This entertainment destination features an inspiring stainless steel dome, a tree-lined grand avenue that forms the boulevard, and a street-savvy appeal with the elements that showcase traditional architecture.
The master plan is designed as a part of the cityscape with its network of streets and plazas that are socially, economically, and environmentally viable.
4. Rejuvenating A Riverfront
Project Name: London River Park
Location: London, United Kingdom
This project, designed as an urban public amenity along the underutilized north bank of River Thames lies between the Blackfriars Bridge and the Tower of London.
Proposed by Gensler, this floating waterfront park draws from the renaissance charm of its surroundings and provides publicly accessible spaces for passive recreation.
This walking expanse is designed with several zones, including a pathway to walk along the river, small city squares for sitting and relaxing, and large plazas for grander activities.
The proposal also includes a landscaped walkway or a city walk that provides access to seven floating pavilions that would highlight the history and cultural heritage of the city.
5. Reimagining Streets
Project Name: Design for Distancing
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
With the pandemic changing all gathering spaces across the globe, the ‘Design for Distancing’ challenge was put forward by the City of Baltimore to reinvent public spaces with a social distancing module so they can reopen together. To implement interventions that reactivate the main streets, Gensler proposed design additions to a 1700 block area in the city which targeted creating healthy and safe spaces so local businesses could flourish once again.
This street design carves segregated tracks for walking and cycling with provisions of seating areas planned in a way that avoids contact and contamination.
The concept also focuses on fabricating safe spaces for small businesses so they can operate outdoors with their surroundings planned in a way that naturally leads to social distancing.
6. A Community of Distinct Spaces
Project Name: Rivali Park
Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra
Nestled between the suburban area of Borivali and Sanjay Gandhi National Park, ‘Rivali Park’ gets its name and conceptual ideation from its surroundings.
This new district core is a mixed-use destination comprising retail, residential, commercial, hospitality, and cultural elements. It sets the tone for the formation of a new community by creating a township that not only becomes a habitat for individuals but also unifies everybody with the public plazas and semi-private open spaces shared by its residents.
With the planning and execution of this project, Gensler overcame the challenge of bringing residential and commercial zones together accompanied by harmonious public spaces that correspond well with their context.
7. The Sustainable City
Project Name: King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE)
Location: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Better known as the sustainable city, the K.A.CARE is located southwest of central Riyadh and emerges as the new center for research and innovation in sustainable energy production.
Through their participation in a government-sponsored international competition, Gensler proposed a design that fostered innovation, creativity, and opportunity for individuals to come together and form a community.
This resource-efficient desert city presented a sense of place with the master plan designed to be set into a dramatic valley landscape or ‘wadi’.
8. Connecting Corridors
Project Name: Brooklyn Queens Cross Line (BQXL)
Location: New York
With the most awe-inspiring skyline, the city of New York has always had visionary architecture. As it continues to grow, the rising population in this overburdened city needs to accommodate this level of growth.
With the aid of urban design practices, Gensler has proposed the BQXL with a developed design concept that transforms the existing yet underutilized freight corridors in a way that helps connect Queens and Brooklyn, two prime neighborhoods in the city.
Along with inter-borough connectivity, the project also aims to enhance community development and create open spaces within the arenas of existing infrastructure.
9. Synergy In Design
Project Name: Iskandar Financial District
Location: South Johor, Malaysia
It is one of the nine flagship zones overlooking the Straits of Johor, the team at Gensler proposed and developed a master plan for the Iskandar Financial District that aims to advance long-term economic development.
The project unfolds mixed-use development on its site and primarily brings forward a plan that proposes a balanced juxtaposition between the natural and manmade elements in its vicinity.
Within a spread of about 46 million square feet of high-density infrastructure, the design also encompasses extensive parks and public open spaces to consolidate the elements with the community.
Also equipped with sustainable measures, the buildings orient to allow maximum natural ventilation and have an added provision for stormwater management.
10. A Campus Anchors A Community
Project Name: Burlingame Point
Location: Burlingame, California
This large-scale waterfront hub showcases its dynamic and diverse nature with the master plan for its campus development put forward by Gensler.
Situated at a prime location between Silicon Valley and San Francisco, the project creates a space that would attract an innovative and creative tech client. The campus is designed to be arranged around open plazas connected by walkways with a clear view of the bay.
The design was derived from the San Francisco bay with components like outdoor terraces inspired by the prevailing wind patterns.
To maximize the view of the outdoor bay, the fins visible on the exterior facade are inspired by the dynamics of light and water.