Gensler joins FIU Interior Architecture in teaching Graduate Design 2: Workplace Design


What are current issues regarding workplace design? What insights can best help us design successful workplaces? Why is it important that the design of workplace interiors respond to a complex set of contexts, including the culture of the workplace, the building and site with which they engage, and the technical systems within which they operate? These are all issues the Graduate Design 2: Workplace Design studio sought to explore.

This framework of investigation led to a unique collaboration between the leading global design firm Gensler and this FIU studio. Gensler’s Miami office, located at 801 Brickell, acted as an extended campus, offering students access to their expertise through lectures and through instruction with a set of mentors (Gensler employees, for whom design education is a passion and of high importance). Studio classes occurred at both the FIU Modesto Maidique Campus and Gensler’s downtown offices.

Gensler crafted the project brief. Using past advertising firm clients as subjects for the investigation, each student team developed a schematic design using the same program and the same building, but with a different advertising agency as a client. Students conducted the design process using a variety of investigations into clients and into shaping interior spaces using a palette of space, materiality, light, and acoustics. The variety and development of the responses were quite successful. Students were able to create interior environments that embraced the company culture and responded to user needs, while proposing a new and fresh look at workplace environments.

During the Spring 2014 semester, first-year Master of Interior Architecture candidates studied Graduate Design 2: Workplace Design under the guidance of Gensler.

Gensler is a global architectural design firm that has more than 40 offices around the world in 112 counties and more than 2,400 clients. Gensler specializes in more than 25 practice areas, among them workplace design, brand strategy, environmental design graphics, and product design. The firm’s pool of clients include companies such as Citibank, TotalBank, Chase, DLA Piper Global Law Firm, Starbucks (Southeast Region), Porsche (Latin American showrooms) and Gap. Gensler was listed as the top architectural firm (out of 300 listed) by Architectural Record in 2013. The firm expects to double in size by the year 2030.

Gensler’s Miami offices – led by Diana Farmer-Gonzalez (FIU MIA ’96), IIDA, AAIA, Office Director/Design Director – recently designed the Fort Lauderdale headquarters for Zimmerman Advertising, which is the largest advertising agency in the Southeast. The Miami office of Gensler has also worked with Univision, Bloomberg, and Discovery Channel. Gensler’s Miami office specializes in Workplace design (Creative Media, Professional Service Firms, Financial Services, and Headquarters), Retail and Brand Design, Hospitality, and, most recently, Mixed Use projects. The Miami office works with global clients in Miami /South Florida and in Latin America. The Gensler Miami office is made up of a team of registered architects and interior designers, graphic designers, brand designers, technical designers, and LEED accredited professionals.

All FIU alumni that work at Gensler’s Miami offices have received scholarships from the FIU Interior Architecture Department. For this reason, Farmer-Gonzalez chose to help FIU Interior Architecture teach its MIA candidates the studio on Workplace Design. “It’s really important for us to give back to the community and to the university with our time and talents through teaching as well as through contributing to future scholarships for the School of Architecture and the Arts. It’s part of our mission as a studio; it’s part of the mission for Gensler as a whole to be part of the many aspects of our community, with design education being at the top of the list.” Farmer-Gonzalez graduated Summa Cum Laude from Florida International University in 1996 with a Master of Interior Architecture, and she has also served on the Advisory Board of FIU Interior Architecture, next to Janine King, Chair and has worked as a teaching assistant and as adjunct faculty for the Department.

When reflecting on the work of the MIA candidates in Graduate Design 2: Workplace Design, Farmer-Gonzalez said she is impressed by “[t]he level of world experience and access to information that the students have.” She said, “[I]t was very interesting…to see that a lot of the students in this class have studied something else besides architecture and interiors, and have decided to go back to school to study interior architecture. So, it was a very rich talent pool for ideation.” She mentioned that this quality was important for the projects assigned to the students, which was to research a list of advertising agencies created for the class. Each team of MIA students was given a floor plan of their assigned advertising agency on which to base their project. Farmer-Gonzalez said, “The worldview and the point of view from design is very rich [among the students]….[T]he research projects were exceptional.”

Farmer-Gonzalez explained how the mission of Gensler transfers into its collaboration with the FIU Interior Architecture Department. “How are you creating a design experience that actually affects work and business metrics and the experience[,] health and well-being of a person[. Also,] how can we give back to the community that educated us…?”

This is the first semester that Gensler teaches Graduate Design 2: Workplace Design with the FIU Interior Architecture Department. The Gensler teaching team for this studio includes:

Walter Trujillo, AIA, Principal + Design Director – Gensler Florida (Lectures and class overview)
Diana Farmer-Gonzalez, IIDA, AAIA, Office Director / Design Director – Gensler Miami Office (Co-Leading Gensler Teaching team)
Tari Pelaez, Designer (Leading Gensler Teaching + Mentor Team, Student Mentor)
Eduardo Meza – Sr. Designer – (Lectures and design overview, Student Mentor)
Vera Fernandez-Villegas – Technical Designer/Project Manager (Student Mentor- Co Leading Student Critiques)
Alejandra Stiefel – Designer (Student Mentor)
Vanessa Rubio – Technical Designer (Student Mentor)

The FIU alumni that currently work at Gensler’s Miami offices are:

 Shayan Khalilahmadi (Design Intern, Masters of Interior Architecture – Class of 2014)
Ana Costanzo (Masters of Interior Architecture – Class of 2013)
Tari Pelaez (Masters of Arts, Interior Design – Class of 2011)
Alejandra Stiefel (Interior Design – Class of 2005)
Norma Galella (Interior Design  – Class of 2005)
Vera Fernandez-Villegas (Architecture – Class of 2005)
Eva Fernandez (Architecture – Class of 2005)
Diana Farmer-Gonzalez (Interior Design  – Class of 1996)
John Naranjo (Architecture Technology – Class of 1990)

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