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May 18, 2021 By IIDA HQ
IIDA Remembers Art Gensler Jr.
Beloved architect and designer Art Gensler leaves behind a legacy of design, leadership, and achievements.
By IIDA HQ May 18, 2021
Published in

IIDA joins the design community in extending our deepest condolences on the recent passing of Art Gensler Jr. at the age of 85. In 1965 along with wife Drue Gensler and colleague James Follet, Art founded Gensler—building one of the largest architecture and design firms in the world through partnership and innovation. A designer, architect, and legendary leader, Art was beloved by many, and was known for saying that one should always “hire smart people and then get out of their way.”

Here at IIDA, we remember Art as being instrumental in the founding and support of our association. “Art was a unique and remarkable individual—he was an icon not just for his legacy in design, but also for his love and care for the people who worked with him. IIDA is especially fortunate to have benefitted from Art’s guidance and insight,” said IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA. “He was one of the first people to congratulate me on becoming CEO of IIDA 25 years ago, and we stayed connected over the years, with IIDA eventually becoming a Gensler client and the beneficiary of Art’s time and wisdom.”

MGM CityCenter on the Las Vegas Strip where Art Gensler served as executive architect. Photo credit: Jon Schmidt and MGM
MGM CityCenter on the Las Vegas Strip where Art Gensler served as executive architect. Photo credit: Jon Schmidt and MGM
Art Gensler and Cheryl Durst at the IIDA office in Chicago.
Art Gensler and Cheryl Durst at the IIDA office in Chicago.

An incomparable mentor to many, his personal and professional generosity was legend. He scribed the advice and wisdom filled, Art’s Principles: 50 years of hard-learned lessons in building a world-class professional services firm in 2015 as an essential guide to leadership, culture, strategy, creative engagement, and client relationships. The book serves as an incredible compass towards achieving both design innovation and work/life balance.

Cheryl Durst shared that as mentor he always offered sage insight and advice, imparting key, enduring life lessons:

1. Start fewer sentences with the word “I”, there is strength in “we” and mostly ego in “I”.
2. Stay interested in what you love, and curious about everything else. Never stop learning.
3. Tell a good story.
4. Ask good questions—Not just for the sake of asking, but to learn.
5. Smile.
6. Laughter is healing, humor is disarming.
7. Have a point of view. Be able to articulate it.
8. Have pride and courage in your identity and remember who you are. It’s what you will have and present to the world in the best of times, and the worst of times.
9. Leadership is lonely. There is light in loneliness.
10. Design is a business.
11. Character. Culture. Confidence. Courage. And Character, again. It is the bedrock of people and relationships, organizations and teams.
12. Being an only child prepares you for anything, especially being a creative, imaginative loner, with a good story to tell.

Consolidated Freightways image courtesy of Gensler
Consolidated Freightways image courtesy of Gensler

Innovative, collaborative, and a visionary, Art drove the industry to new levels of professionalism, and was deeply engaged in the work and the people. His professional recognition and honors include being awarded as a fellow of IIDA and AIA, an IIDA Star and Titan award, and was a longtime member of Interior Design’s Hall of Fame. His firm, work, and relationships leave an indelible mark on our design community.

Art’s legacy will live on through his family and the ‘constellation of stars’ he helped to assemble at Gensler—as the firm will continue to advocate for the profession, push design to new heights, grow firm culture and more broadly expand the vision of what design can be.

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