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Iconic founder of design firm Gensler passes away at 85

Iconic founder of design firm Gensler passes away at 85
EMILY HAGOPIAN—M. Arthur Gensler has died at age 85 in Mill Valley, Calif. He helped found Gensler, a global design and architecture firm and is credited as being a pioneer of organizing large firms and interior design.

MILL VALLEY, CALIF.—M. Arthur Gensler, a founder of global design and architecture firm Gensler, died in his Mill Valley, Calif. home at age 85 the company recently announced.

The firm noted that Art grew a small practice into one of the largest and most admired firms in the industry.

“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,” reads a statement.

Art’s 65-year career in architecture began soon after he completed his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning in 1958. After getting married he moved from New York to San Francisco in 1962. In 1965, Art co-founded M. Arthur Gensler Jr. & Associates, Inc. in a one-room office with just one draftsman and $200 in the bank.

Art stepped down as CEO in 2005 and board chairman in 2010 but remained a constant presence in the firm. “Art made a profound difference in the lives of many people in the firm and the local, national, and international community,” said company officials. “Of all the architects of his generation, Art Gensler stands out as the preeminent firm-builder. He founded and built a collaborative practice that has had wide influence on the profession and become the industry benchmark for a well-run, conservatively managed business.”

The company added under his leadership, the firm was a pioneer in the practice of interior architecture, playing a significant role in developing client understanding of the value of the profession.

“Early in his career, he recognized the need for a new architectural discipline that came to be known as tenant development,” the statement explained. “Beginning with the Alcoa Building in San Francisco, the firm developed the programming practices that have become the framework for interior architectural projects throughout the profession.”

Art was also known for his generosity, giving his time and money to Cornell University, the Buck Institute for Aging, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the California College of the Arts.

Recently Art, along with his family, gave $10 million to Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning — a gift that will sustain the school’s New York City-based program.

Some of Art’s accomplishments include being named a fellow of both the American Institute of Architects (FAIA) and the International Interior Design Association (FIIDA), and a professional member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He received a Design Futures Council Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. A charter member of Interior Design magazine’s Hall of Fame and a recipient of IIDA’s Star Award, he also received Ernst & Young LLP’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

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