Tributes paid after celebrated architect Art Gensler passes away

by | 21 May 2021 | Design, News

A host of high-profile figures have paid their respects to Art Gensler, co-founder of the eponymous architecture firm, following his death at the age of 85.

Few architects have had a greater impact on the profession than the late Art Gensler.

Building up Gensler’s profile

Art Gensler, who was born in 1935 and co-founded M Arthur Gensler Jr & Associates with his wife Drue and James Follett in 1965, has passed away. An architect and astute businessman, he was instrumental in turning the company into one of the world’s most influential architecture firms.

“It is with great sadness that we announce that our founder, M Arthur Gensler Jr, has passed away peacefully,” said Gensler. “Art was an industry icon and entrepreneur with the vision that we not only design spaces, but we do so with the understanding that they have the power to shape how we experience the world and who we become within it.

“His vision of a collaborative culture that emphasises a selfless client-first design approach has become a characteristic Gensler trait, and has helped propel the firm to global prominence long after Art stepped down as CEO in 2005 and chairman in 2010.”

Expanding across the US and internationally

With Art Gensler at the helm, the firm grew at unprecedented speed, opening offices across the US in the 1970s and 1980s and then internationally throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Today, Gensler has more than 5,000 staff and 50 offices around the world.

“Art didn’t want to be a ‘starchitect’,” said Andy Cohen, Gensler co-CEO. “In fact, what he built was a constellation of stars by hiring smart people and getting out of their way. It’s why Gensler is a pioneer in our industry, and Art’s legacy will remain embedded in our firm’s unique culture.”

“Art’s legacy on the industry is in how he elevated the interior design profession and drove innovation across an entire industry,” said Diane Hoskins, Gensler co-CEO. “His vision for our firm was that, together, designers and clients can solve the world’s biggest challenges. This has never been more important than it is right now.”

“He has single-handedly defined the business of architecture in the United States,” said Martin Manley, former US assistant secretary of labor. “He brought professionalism and the notion of client service to this business that simply wasn’t there before.”

“His contributions to the entire AEC [architecture, engineering and construction] industry have been awesome,” said James P Cramer, chairman/founding principal, Greenway Group; chairman, Design Futures Council; former CEO, AIA.

Backing the next generation of design talent

Outside of work, Art Cornell was committed to supporting design professionals, endowing a scholarship programme at his alma mater Cornell University, and gifting – along with his family – US$10 million to its College of Architecture, Art, and Planning. He was also a trustee for the California College of the Arts.

“Art Gensler’s commitment to the college and the architecture profession, like the man himself, is larger than life,” said J Meejin Yoon, gale and ira drukier dean of Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning. “Among the most prolific architects and leaders of the profession, his passion and recognition of the responsibility architects and designers bear in building the future is felt at every scale.”

“His life and work exemplify the core values of the college: collaboration, community engagement, innovation and sustainability,” said Stephen Beal, president, California College of the Arts.

Art Gensler is survived by his four sons and their families: David and his children (Aaron, Thisbe, Dunia, and Pales) with Alisoun; Robert and his wife Gillian; Douglas and his wife Kinzie and their children (Cortie, Cailin, and Mamie); and Kenneth and his children (Morgan, Jake, and Sam) with Jennifer and their grandchild Charlotte.

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