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Meet Terence Young of Gensler in Downtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Terence Young.

Terence, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I came to Los Angeles in 1991 from the Midwest after finishing a Bachelor’s of Science in Architecture at the University of Michigan.

Driving cross country, I pulled my beat up Celica after crossing the desert in August into Santa Monica to pursue a Masters of Architecture at Southern California Institute of Architecture; then sited at Berkeley Street near Olympic. I worked for many mentors in Los Angeles on incredible commissions as a young designer: The Getty Center with Richard Meier, and The Disney Concert Hall with Frank O. Gehry. I joined Gensler in 1995 and learned to combine the emerging technology of computer graphics and 3d digital environments with physical model building and design drawings.

My first airport project was a renovation of LAX Terminal 3; a project that sits in a drawer somewhere, unrealized. I have re-revisited the design of the LAX campus several times in my -a testament to the difficult nature of civic/aviation work. The challenges of designing for Airports and Transportation lies in the willingness to create bold yet lasting statements of experiences for huge, complex organizations that are publicly scrutinized and often underfunded, shepherded by a cadre of non-aligned leaders, agencies and councils. Yet, I love the work, the romance of designing for air travel.

My first big break was the design of the San Jose International Airport-a sculptural building integrated with art and flooded with natural light, reflecting the innovations and energy of Silicon Valley. The next big break was Terminal 2 in San Francisco, a design that would be the first LEED accredited terminal in the world, flooded with natural light illuminating purposeful artworks commissioned and designed for each area.

This project proved to be a springboard to other commissions at SFO, and eventually grew to encompass projects such as Incheon South Korea, Auckland New Zealand and the Midfield Satellite Concourse being built as the expansion of Tom Bradley International Terminal here at LAX

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It was definitely not smooth. A mentor once said to me that there are two components to learning: a great teacher and a coachable student. Let’s say that I needed to learn how to be “coachable”- to look at problems beyond the “architectural.” I had to learn to look at the way of design, rather than simply being seduced by the process of creating stuff. I also had to learn how to communicate with clients and stakeholders to define what the actual problem that would guide the design success parameters of a design solution. I think young Architects-to-be believe in the “Howard Roark/Fountainhead mythology”.

It’s a belief that the best design will always win the day. This belief doesn’t always balance the future flexibility of the building, the longevity of materials, or perhaps the investment strategy of the owner. Learning these things often shatters the bubble of visionary dreamers, and often I felt at risk of losing the energy and creativity that comes with naivete.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Gensler story. Tell us more about the business.
Gensler is a design firm that grew out of an Interiors practice. it has grown to encompass Planning (such as city planning or large campus planning for corporations, airports, etc), Architecture (the design of individual buildings or series of buildings), Interiors, graphics, Digital experiences, Consulting Services, Project management among much else. We like to say we can design everything from a wine label to the product display, the tasting room, the Winery, the town master plan, and the transportation system to fly you into the town.

I think we’re best known for designing solutions that balance the human experience in design with a practice that is about growing communities. I’m very proud that our mission is no less than making the world better through the power of good design. Many architects dream of designing bold, transformative buildings that are monuments of geometry. Often these land like aliens into the community, are hard to adapt to, and serve only one purpose and fail their community-we tend to avoid designing that way.

My practice is focused on Aviation, the design of buildings that people travel through and work in that support air travel.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I think luck is rather how quickly one can capitalize on an opportunity or a conversation or a chance meeting to learn something valuable. On one hand, I can say that I am “fortunate” to work on these aviation projects with this studio of amazing people.

On the other hand, I can say that personally, I have weathered through many years where there was no aviation work, or where I did not have the talent or the portfolio or the experience to impress a client to win a commission. It is only through constantly working towards learning the craft of Architecture, gaining an insight to the mechanisms of public architecture commissions, and being open to the mentoring of clients and colleagues to make that “luck” go from bad to good.

In my personal life, I would say that I was “lucky” to meet my wife. A smart, fashionable, design-minded Berkeley English nerd with aspirations for the entertainment law industry. But the reality is, dating her was more like going on safari and stalking jungle prey: there was a lot of work going on there. I suppose the only luck was that we were both single and living on the Westside of LA simultaneously!

Luck is just another way of looking at where you are and forgetting all of the forces that placed you in your current position.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Ryan Gobuty; Gensler+Corgan

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