(Re)Connected City

Cities are sometimes torn apart by redevelopment and the transition to a postindustrial economy. Reconnection is an important urban strategy that Gensler uses to mend these disruptions to the urban fabric.

We work with established cities across the planet to help reconnect and revive their districts and neighborhoods.

Image: Pacific Place — San Francisco, California

Chicago: A Loop Greater Than Its Parts

Chicago’s Loop has many successful parts — a main shopping street, a theater district, and several downtown university and college campuses. Yet these parts never came together as a single destination, despite excellent transit access.

To give the Loop a destination value that matches its global name recognition, a pivotal block is being redeveloped there as a mixed-use center that enlarges the Loop by reconnecting its retail heart to the theater district to the north. Gensler has designed Block 37, the retail element of the new center, to draw State Street shoppers to and through the block.

The Block 37 retail pavilion adds the kind of evening and weekend activity that a 24/7 urban destination needs. Residential towers on the block provide foot traffic and give the Loop a lived-in quality that underscores its authenticity to out-of-town visitors.

Chicago: Bridging the 35th Street Divide

When Chicago’s Dan Ryan Expressway was extended in the 1960s, it divided the Bronzeville and Bridgeport neighborhoods. The 35th Street Bridge, which provides access to a Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) rail station, was meant to connect them. As originally designed, though, the bridge — a hefty slab of concrete lined with chain-link fences — only reinforced the division. It was bleak and uninviting.

The 2003 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, hosted by the Chicago White Sox in the team’s stadium east of the bridge, led the city to ask Gensler to reconnect the two neighborhoods by making the experience of walking between them safer, easier and more enjoyable. In addition to the bridge, Gensler also designed the renovated station. On game days, the bridge now serves as a gathering place for fans and neighbors alike.

San Francisco: Reviving a Gateway

On a map, Market Street looks like a grand boulevard. Until very recently, the reality was quite different. The city redeveloped north and south of Market Street, while this important corridor languished. Yet its pivotal location, especially in the Mid-Market area, was a constant spur to revive its fortunes. Gensler has been involved in that process for two decades.

Redevelopment along Market Street and on the corridors that link it to Union Square and Yerba Buena Center has transformed the area, building on its superb regional transit access. Starting with Moscone Convention Center and including key projects like Pacific Place, CityPlace and One Powell Street, Gensler designers have activated the area as a “crossing” and gateway to San Francisco.

Nagoya: Creating a Retail District

Despite being dotted by large department stores, the area around Hoshigaoka Terrace was never seen in Nagoya as a retail destination. At its center was a site with daunting topography. Gensler’s challenge was to make it the heart of new citywide retail district — a place with room for community events, not just for shopping.

Treating the roadway like a river, Gensler’s designers carved out one of its “banks” to form the radial Four Seasons Plaza that serves the district as a town square. Instead of stairways, Gensler used terraces, visible from the street, to express the topography. Those slopes create a pathway for shoppers, making every store visible and accessible. Nearby department stores are equally conspicuous, too, which raises the profile of the larger district as a regional retail destination in Nagoya.

Manchester: A Street Runs through It

Located on the outer rim of central Manchester, the City Magistrates Court is entered from the uphill side, a few hundred yards west of Deansgate, the city’s main downtown shopping street. The building is organized around an atrium that serves as a pedestrian corridor that ties the city center to the river and provides views in both directions. The atrium also provides circulation among the building’s three main uses — courts, offices, and public and secure waiting areas.

The Court rethinks the relationship between the courtrooms, waiting areas and offices. In the past, these were layered horizontally, which meant that Magistrates had the longest journeys to get from court to court. Gensler reorganized them vertically, as separate but connected elements. Each can be designed for its own unique requirements. Magistrates can move efficiently through the building. And the public has a more pleasant wait with views to the city.

Las Vegas: Getting High Rollers on the Train

More often than not over the past several decades, Las Vegas has grown apace. One of the potential brakes on that growth is air quality. To keep a lid on that problem and maintain a green light for future development, Las Vegas has partnered with the private sector to build the largest privately owned-and-operated urban transit system in the U.S., the Las Vegas Monorail.

As part of the Monorail consortium, Gensler has designed every station in a line that links up seven different casino properties. These follow a consistent template, sharing elements but enabling each station to be tailored for its location. The stations create a second “front door” away from the Strip that enhances the value of the casinos’ more peripheral building sites.

John Parman—Gensler Firmwide Communications

Pacific Place, Sherman Takata: page 1
Block 37, Project Team: page 2a-d
Chicago Transit Authority, Steve Hall: page 3a-c
CityPlace, Project Team: page 4a-c
Moscone West Exposition Building, Roland Halbe: page 4d
Moscone West Exposition Building, Sherman Takata: page 4e
One Powell Street, Sherman Takata: page 4f-g
Hoshigaoka Terrace, Nacása & Partners Inc./Atsushi Nakamichi: page 5a-d
Manchester City Magistrates Court, Dennis Gilbert: page 6a, 6c
Manchester City Magistrates Court, Owen Raggett (Gensler—London): page 6b
Las Vegas Monorail, Nick Merrick/Hedrich Blessing: page 7a-d

*For detailed information, please roll over imagery on individual story pages.

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