The architecture world has lost another giant this week, as Millard Arthur Gensler Jr., or Art Gensler, passed away at his home in Mill Valley, California, yesterday, May 10. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Gensler had been battling a lung disease for the last 18 months. He was 85.
A businessman and architect, Gensler founded the company that bears his name in 1965 and eventually grew it from a partnership with a single draftsman into the world’s largest architecture firm. Although Gensler stepped down as the firm’s chairman in 2010, he would spend the rest of his life focused on philanthropic efforts.
Born in Brooklyn in 1935, Gensler went on to receive his Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning in 1958. Moving to San Francisco in 1962 with his wife Drucilla Cortell Gensler, whom he married in 1957, Art would remain in California for the rest of his life. In 1965, he teamed up with James Follett to co-found M. Arthur Gensler Jr. & Associates, Inc., a small firm with an initial focus on space planning and interiors that would eventually blossom to the 6,000-plus-strong worldwide company it is today.
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“Art’s passing is a great loss for our industry and for me personally,” said Gensler co-CEO Andy Cohen in a press statement. After Art stepped down as chair of Gensler, he named Cohen and Diane Hoskins co-CEOs, roles which they continue to hold to this day.
Added Cohen: “He was my mentor, coach, and great friend for 40 years. As our founder, he helped mold my career and those of so many other Gensler leaders. He laid the foundations for the company to become a global powerhouse — one that has repeatedly been recognized as the most admired design firm in the world. He taught us all about pursuing personal passions, opening doors for our people to excel at what they love to do, and working together to redefine the profession. He demonstrated how design has the power to create a better world. He showed us anything is possible.”
“Art’s legacy on the industry is in how he elevated the interior design profession and drove innovation across an entire industry,” added Hoskins. “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. His legacy as a person was in the way he mentored almost everyone he met. An instant friend with an open mind and a master connector of people, the built environment, and the human experience.”
Aside from the numerous accolades that Gensler the firm has won over the years, Art Gensler himself was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and the International Interior Design Association, as well as a professional member of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Gensler is survived by his four sons (David, Robert, Douglas, and Kenneth) and their families.