Gensler Rethinks the Office

Gensler Rethinks the Office


After a year of listening to and learning about its employees’ preferences, Gensler has completed the first of three phases in transforming its downtown Los Angeles office into an innovative showroom, inspired by the post-pandemic trend of employees wanting more creative and flexible work environments.

Common areas were inspired by residential and hospitaliaty aesthetics.

“We did a very careful job of not saying, ‘what can we do to get you back,’ but instead saying, ‘when you’re here, what do you need?’” said Michael White, co-managing director of Gensler’s Los Angeles office.

Gensler’s Kirk Bairian, left, and Michael White in a lounge in Gensler’s downtown Los Angeles office.

What resulted was a massive facelift of the space, for which Gensler spent roughly $100 per square foot on renovations – so far on only one floor totaling 26,000 square feet – to reinvent its interiors and meet workforce demands.

A corridor in Gensler’s downtown Los Angeles office space.

And after including touches such as lockable fridges, pumping chairs for mothers and local artwork featuring QR codes that navigate to purchase links, the Gensler team says its office has seen a 35% increase in staff occupancy of its pilot space on a regular basis. 

Jewel box meeting rooms in Gensler’s Los Angeles office. This area will be renovated in phase three of Gensler’s office revamp.

Gensler’s transformation has already garnered attention from landlords and tenants, serving as a sort of prototype for its clients on what all the design firm can achieve.

“We’re spending our own money to do our own experiments and pass that knowledge on to our clients,” said Kirk Bairian, an associate architect at Gensler. “Knowing that we’re doing it for ourselves, that we’re not just selling this empty fantasy, has been critical to moving workplace design in general forward.”

The Reading Room overlooks the Los Angeles Central Library. It and other rooms feature cameras positioned at optimal angles for video calls.

Employees come first

To accommodate varied workplace preferences, Gensler has said goodbye to traditional cubicles and replaced them with a series of configurations that support neurodiversity – ranging from sit and stand desks, focus work pods, communal worktables, soft-seating work booths and more. Now, employees choose their preferred seat of the day ahead of time with technology partner Calven, which has become the company’s internal scheduling tool.

“The extreme personality types really came out because they had an ability to choose,” White joked. “We’re focusing on the idea of hyper personalization.”

Reception desk in Gensler’s DTLA office. This space has not yet been renovated.

From a design standpoint, the warm and natural palette of the new interior, White said, was influenced by residential and hospitality aesthetics, with the intention of making employees feel comfortable at work. 

“We want our work to be the color of the space,” Bairian added, noting that they want their own designs to be the focal point. Renderings of current and past projects, organized by practice area, deck the walls, adding energy to the space.

Before: This floor at Gensler’s office has not yet been renovated.

“Now the presentation that previously was only seen by the client, because it was pinned up and taken down, is now on view to the entire studio,” White said. “So everybody within that studio knows what Kirk was working on. They see what he worked on, they see what he just presented to his client, and the sharing of good ideas across the studio starts happening.”

Gensler has been in its current office space since 2011, when the firm moved its Los Angeles unit from Santa Monica. In total, the office has roughly 500 employees and spans approximately 104,000 square feet. Talks of renovation began in May 2022 and construction started a year after that. The work lasted four months and wrapped up in November of last year. Phase two, which includes the reconstruction of the floor above, is expected to begin in March, followed by phase three. 

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