Art Gensler, an architect and entrepreneur who turned a small San Francisco architectural firm into one of the largest in the world with projects around the world, died on May 10 at his home in Mill Valley, California. He was 85 years old.
His death was confirmed by a spokeswoman for Kimberly M. Beals.
Mr. Gensler’s most famous works include the terminals at San Francisco International Airport and the Shanghai Tower, a rotating glass structure that, at 632 meters, is the tallest skyscraper in China and the second tallest building in the world. (The tallest is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai at 2,717 feet.)
The company’s other projects include the 32-story tower at PNC Plaza in Pittsburgh. Banc of California Stadium, home of the Major League Soccer expansion team, Los Angeles Football Club; and the Westin DEN Hotel and Transit Center in Denver, which combines a transportation hub with airport links, an open-air space and a hotel that resembles a giant wing about to fly.
At a time when many architects overlooked interior design, Mr. Gensler made it a key part of his architectural practice. He said he designed spaces from the inside out, which meant that he first thought about how a customer wanted an interior to look and feel, and then used those desires as inspiration for the exterior of a structure.
Gap is one of the interior design company’s primary clients with stores around the world. Another example is L’Oréal, which Gensler commissioned to design the interior of its 10-story US headquarters in the new Hudson Yards development in Manhattan.
Mr. Gensler and his wife Drue Gensler founded M. Arthur Gensler Jr. & Associates in 1965 in San Francisco with a business partner, James Follet. The practice began in a one-room office with only $ 200 in the bank, according to the company’s account.
The company grew exponentially, eventually employing thousands of people in offices in 50 cities around the world. The company’s revenue was over $ 1.5 billion in 2019.
Millard Arthur Gensler Jr. was born in Brooklyn on July 12, 1935. His father sold acoustic tiles for Armstrong, and his mother, Gertrude Gensler, was a telephone operator for a telephone company. The younger Mr. Gensler received a Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning in 1958. There he met Drucilla Cortell, whom he married in 1957.
He stepped down as the company’s chief executive in 2005, but continued to serve as chairman until 2010.
Mr. Gensler has received many awards during his 65-year career, including the American Institute of Architects Architecture Office Award in 2000. He was a founding member of Interior Design Magazine’s Hall of Fame.
He is survived by his four sons David, Robert, Douglas and Kenneth and ten grandchildren. His wife died in 2017.
Mr. Gensler was known for his ability to recruit and develop young talent. In a 1994 interview with the New York Times, he said his secret to attracting talent is that he has enough confidence to hire smarter people than he is.
“I have just as much pleasure in seeing one of the people I have chosen very well as I do in seeing a building that I have made,” he said.