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Art Gensler, World-Renowned Architect, Dies At 85

Art Gensler, founder of global design firm Gensler, died Monday, the company has confirmed.

Gensler was 85 and died at his Mill Valley, California, home following an 18-month battle with lung disease, the S.F. Chronicle reported.

"Art didn't want to be a ‘starchitect.’ In fact, what he built was a constellation of stars by hiring smart people and getting out of their way," Gensler co-CEO Andy Cohen, who leads the firm with Diane Hoskins, said in a statement. "It’s why Gensler is a pioneer in our industry, and Art’s legacy will remain imbedded in our firm’s unique culture."

Art Gensler

Gensler founded what has reportedly become the world’s largest design firm in San Francisco in 1965 and helped grow the business from an office of three people to its current over 5,000 employees in 46 locations globally, according to the American Institute of Architects, which attributed his efforts to the increased regard for the interior design profession within commercial real estate.

“Starting out, my goal was to have six employees and do garage remodels,” Gensler told the Nob Hill Gazette in 2018.

“He had a real passion for San Francisco and the Bay Area,” Art's son David told the S.F. Chronicle. “He started his practice in the back of another firm’s office, using sawhorses and doors to set up drafting tables in 1965 and maintained that level of humility no matter how big his firm and his name became.”

Gensler stepped down as CEO in 2005 and chairman in 2010, according to a statement from the firm. 

In addition to being the author of Art’s Principles, a book on entrepreneurial lessons Gensler learned during the 50 years he spent building his firm, Gensler is a charter member of Interior Design magazine’s Hall of Fame. He also won the IIDA Star Award, Ernst & Young LLP’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year Award, according to a bio on Gensler’s website. 

The firm had completed an estimated 8,000 projects across the globe by 2019, which accounted for 1.5B SF, according to Gensler’s 2020 annual report. Key projects include the world's second-tallest building, Shanghai Tower. The 100% employee-owned company’s total revenue was $1.55B in 2020.