Founder of Gensler Passes Away

The architect built his eponymous firm into one of the nation’s most innovative design practices.
Art Gensler, Founder of Gensler. Photo by Emily Hagopian 

The founder of Gensler, M. Arthur Gensler Jr., has passed away at the age of 85 at his home in Mill Valley, Calif. 

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1935, Gensler received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning (AAP) in 1958. In 1965, Art and his wife Drucilla (Drue) Cortell Gensler, co-founded M. Arthur Gensler Jr. & Associates Inc. along with James Follett.

The business started out in a one-room office with one draftsman and only $200 in the bank. From there, the company went on to become a pioneer in the industry, playing a significant role in the profession of architecture. Gensler was responsible for discovering the need for the architectural discipline known as tenant development. This was first used in his Alcoa Building, located at San Francisco, which began the practices that became the framework for interior architectural projects throughout the years. 

In 2010, Gensler stepped down as the firm’s chairman and appointed Andy Cohen and Diane Hoskins as co-CEOs. In his later years, he served as a Trustee of the Buck Institute for Aging, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the California College of the Arts. The Gensler family recently donated $10 million to Cornell University’s College of AAP. 

“Art had a drive and excitement for the future. He leaned into what was next. We will continue to honor his legacy by leaning in to the future—unafraid to define what’s next—to pass on the culture of design’s impact for decades to come,” Hoskins told Multi-Housing News. 

Industry recognition

Gensler has been recognized on numerous occasions for his accomplishments in the industry. These include being the year 2000 recipient of the American Institute of Architects’ Architecture Firm of the Year, the Institute’s highest honor to a collaborative practice; being named a Fellow of both the American Institute of Architects and the International Interior Design Association; and a professional member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. 

Moscone Convention Center West. Photo by Roland Halbe

He also received a Design Futures Council Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016, became a charter member of Interior Design magazine’s Hall of Fame, recipient of IIDA’s Star Award, received Ernst & Young’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year Award. 

He is survived by his four sons—David, Robert, Douglas and Kenneth—and their families.

“Art’s vision was that we design spaces with understanding the responsibility we have, as designers and architects, to shape the way we experience the world and who we become in it. He forever changed how architects like me bring projects to life,” Hoskins told MHN. “Art made a profound difference in the lives of everyone he met. For the firm, for our clients and for everyone we worked with, he was a true innovator, and one that was deeply beloved and respected. Our firm’s next generation of leaders will continue to build off of Art’s legacy by embodying his selfless, people-first design approach.”