Portrait of Art Gensler (Courtesy Gensler)

Portrait of Art Gensler (Courtesy Gensler)

World-renowned architect Art Gensler dies

By Keith Burbank

Bay City News

World-renowned Bay Area architect Art Gensler, whose firm designed the Chase Center and the Moscone Convention Center West, among other landmarks in San Francisco, died Monday, his firm announced.

Gensler, who was 85, died peacefully at his home in Mill Valley.

“I like doing things that people use,” Gensler said in a video in memory of his life and the firm Gensler, which survives him.

“Design to me is really a big picture attitude,” he said. “How it’s going to interact with your surroundings and with the people who are going to use it.”

Gensler started his firm in San Francisco in 1965, with his wife Drue and James Follett, in one room with one draftsman and $200.

Now the firm is the biggest in the world.

“It’s a very big collective of the world’s best designers,” said firm spokeswoman Kim Beals, and everyone contributes.

Gensler called the firm “one great family.”

Gensler was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1935, and earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Cornell University in 1958.

He met his wife Drucilla Cortell during their time in school. They married in 1957 and moved from New York to San Francisco in 1962.

Gensler started the firm by focusing on space planning and interiors, which at the time fell under the radar of most architects.

The result was interior design as a new category of practice in architecture. Also, early in his career, Gensler saw the need for a new discipline in architecture called tenant development, which is designing and building interior spaces for office tenants.

His firm developed what’s become the profession’s “framework for interior architectural projects,” the firm said.

Gensler stepped down in 2010 as chairman of the firm and spent years giving back. He served as a trustee for the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the California College of the Arts. He gave $10 million to Cornell University.

He was also a fellow of the American Institute of Architects and the International Interior Design Association. In 2016, he received a Design Futures Council Lifetime Achievement Award and was the recipient of the Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

For all the awards, Gensler said the work and the firm were not about him.

“It never was,” he said in the video. “It about who we call a constellation of stars.”

“It’s takes everyone to do a project,” he said.

The firm is well-known for the Shanghai Tower in Shanghai, China, the world’s second tallest building.

Gensler’s wife died before him. They were married nearly 60 years and leave four sons and their families, including 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Planning for a service was underway, a firm spokesperson said.

Bay Area News

Just Posted

Epic Cleantec uses soil mixed with treated wastewater solids to plants at the company’s demonstration garden in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of Epic Cleantec)
This startup watches what SF flushes – and grows food with it

Epic Cleantec saves millions of gallons of water a year, and helps companies adhere to drought regulations

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler congratulates San Francisco Giants first baseman Darin Ruf (33) in the dug out after hitting a home-run in the 5th inning against the Washington Nationals at Oracle Park on July 9, 2021. (Christopher Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
How Gabe Kapler sets the tone for Giants success with strategy, mindset

‘There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the hands-down manager of the year’

The Kimpton Buchanan Hotel in Japantown could become permanent supportive housing if The City can overcome neighborhood pushback. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco leaders must reject NIMBY discrimination against homeless housing

By San Francisco Examiner Editorial Board “We support supportive housing. But just… Continue reading

The 49ers, opening with a win against the Lions in week one, play the Eagles. (Courtesy 49ers)
NFL Week 2 predictions: Our picks against the spread

By Emmanuel Morgan New York Times Last-second field goals. Teams flooding the… Continue reading

“Ticket to Ride,” on view at RVCA’s Haight-Ashbury store, is made up of artistic renderings of Muni tickets. (Courtesy Optimist Williams)
Celebrating pre-tech SF through Muni transfer tickets

‘Ticket to Ride’ exhibit presents public transit as art and equalizer

Most Read