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Global Architecture Giant Celebrates 50 Years of Making Unforgettable Houston Building — Gensler Flexes Its Bayou City Legacy

The Post Oak Hotel, 1000 Main and Much More

BY // 10.28.22

Seven years after launching his namesake design and architecture firm in 1965, Art Gensler Jr. expanded from the San Francisco home base to Houston where the firm was hired to assist famed architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee in design of Pennzoil Place’s corporate interiors.  Fifty years later, Gensler Houston is celebrating a half century of design that has included such projects as The Post Oak Hotel, 1000 Main and the law offices of Baker Botts.

In a festive acknowledgement of that milestone, more than 400 clients and friends of the firm joined the Gensler team in offices at 909 Fannin where they were welcomed by Gensler Houston’s co-managing directors and principals Stephanie Burritt and Jerry Alexander as well as Gensler’s co-CEO Andy Cohen, who was in from the Los Angeles office of the now-global design and architecture firm.

Post Oak Hotel
Forbes Travel Guide gives Tilman Fertitta’s Post Oak Hotel, designed by Gensler Houston, Five Stars only months after Travel & Leisure magazine readers ranked it as the sixth best in the nation. (Photo Courtesy of Fertitta Entertainment)

Festivities included the unveiling of “Work of Art,” a  20 foot wide, 12 foot high mural of Gensler which was created in partnership with United by Design to celebrate the architect’s life (July 12, 1935 to May 10, 2021) and the Houston office’s 50th anniversary.

In honor of Gensler Houston leaders who paved the way for the firm’s success, cocktails were named after Tony Harbour, Margot Grant Walsh and Jim Furr.

In 2021, Gensler worldwide generated $1.2 billion in revenue, said to be the most of any architecture firm in the United States. As of 2021, Gensler operated offices in 49 cities in 16 countries. Among its most notable buildings are Shanghai Tower in Shanghai, China; Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea; and Johnson Controls Headquarters, Asia Pacific, in Shanghai.

On the occasion of this 50th anniversary. PaperCity asked the two Houston co-managing partners and principals for comments first on the influence of Gensler in Houston design and second on how Gensler Houston is working toward future net zero and sustainability mandates.

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On Gensler Houston design

“Art Gensler often said that we design our buildings from the inside out, and I think that philosophy has established Gensler Houston as a player in developing the profile of our city,” Burritt says. “Even when we are designing the core and shell of a building, we will prepare a hypothetical test fit to see how it will impact the people that will occupy the space.

Gensler Co-CEO Andy Cohen, Gensler Houston Co-Managing Directors Stephanie Burritt and Jerry Alexander
Gensler co-CEO Andy Cohen, Gensler Houston co-managing directors Stephanie Burritt and Jerry Alexander at the Houston firm’s 50th anniversary celebration. (Photo by Quy Tran)

“As part of our process, we focus our efforts on maximizing the human experience. The design is more than a piece of architecture, it is a physical structure that humans interact within, and it arouses their emotion and reaction to the built environment. To create these unique experiences, we really listen to our clients and collaborate with them, and in doing that we bring to life their desires in spaces that also reflect their values.”

On Sustainability

On the question about the future of architecture and design with the growing importance of sustainability, Alexander notes: “Gensler reaffirmed our commitment to resilience and the Gensler Cities Climate Challenge (GC3) in 2019. As the world’s largest design firm, we have a unique obligation and opportunity to focus on sustainability in the built environment.”

1000 Main, formerly Reliant Energy Plaza, designed by Gensler Houston, one of many buildings by the firm which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. (Photo courtesy of Gensler)
1000 Main, formerly Reliant Energy Plaza, designed by Gensler Houston, one of many buildings by the firm which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. (Photo courtesy of Gensler)

“At the beginning of each project, we have conversations about sustainability and climate action, and we actively seek to engage and educate our clients on the topic,” Alexander says. “So, for us, it’s not just about embracing these conversations, but leading them and being an integral voice.

“On the material side, we are already working with our vendors and contractors to ensure everything that comes into our library has been vetted to understand how it is helping us achieving our net zero goals. We can’t advise our clients to do something if our firm is not doing it at that level or above.”

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