(L-R): Kate O’Neil, Annie Carter, Cecilia Torres-Panzera
Gensler 2024 Brinkmann Scholarship winners
June 27, 2024

On the 25th Anniversary, Gensler Honors Three Exceptional Interior Design Students as Recipients of the 2024 Gensler Brinkmann Scholarship

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Gensler, an award-winning global architecture and design firm, is proud to announce three emerging designers have been selected as recipients of the 2024 Gensler Brinkmann Scholarship, an annual program that celebrates design excellence and innovative thinking.

Established in 1999 as a memorial to Donald G. Brinkmann, an inspirational interior designer and former Gensler principal who personified the essence of design, vision, and leadership, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the scholarship.

To celebrate and honor this anniversary, Robin Klehr Avia, Regional Managing Principal of Gensler’s Northeast Region, brought together a jury comprised of Don Brinkmann Award Winners, which is an internal award bestowed annually to a staff member whose exemplary talent, leadership, and vision deserves recognition. This year’s jury was chaired by Robin Klehr Avia and included Hao Ko (2023), Brian Vitale (2022), Susana Covarrubias (2019), EJ Lee (2018), James Young (2017), Philippe Pare (2016), David Epstein (2014), Carlos Martinez (2011), Collin Burry (2008), and Mark Morton (2006).

“Don’s extraordinary design work set the bar very high,” says Robin Klehr Avia, Regional Managing Principal for Gensler’s Northeast region. “I’m so proud that our second and third generation of designers have been able to build upon his legacy of compelling, world-class design.”

This year’s top prizes went to Kate O’Neil, an undergraduate interior architecture at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Annie Carter, an undergraduate interior architecture and design student at the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas; and Cecilia Torres-Panzera, an undergraduate interior architecture at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The three outstanding students will be awarded $5,000 each in scholarships.

2024 Brinkmann Scholarship Recipients

As a rising 4th year, Kate O’Neil exudes a quiet air of confidence and maturity. Her passion for design, shaped by global experiences and academic training, focuses on the interplay between nature and the built environment. Inspired by the integration of light and the impact of design on experiences, Kate aims to merge traditional design with Artificial Intelligence to create positive, innovative spaces.

Kate’s exceptional submission, Salutogenic Sanctuary, was a conceptual design for a low intensity in-patient addition center. Intertwining greenery spanning from the roof into the ground removed a sense of institutionalization. Leveraging a curtain wall in the communal dining and living area allowed for the natural elements inside to be immersed in light, enticing patients to step outside and interact with the surrounding landscape.

Design has been a lifelong passion for Annie Carter, evolving from countless art classes and self-taught skills to starting her own art business in middle school. Annie loves tailoring creations to individuals, which led her to pursue design. For her, design is special because it uniquely impacts people’s lives. This belief motivates her work, and she hopes to make a lasting difference through her design career.

Annie’s standout submission of an office design epitomizes the Dallas horizon with floor-to-ceiling views and a sunset color palette. The reception area features natural materials and a custom semi-circle wall and ceiling. Collaborative workstations include open desk pods, pin-up spaces, and meeting areas, all highlighted by natural light and a warm color scheme. The reception lounge, with its custom arched seating structure, fosters community and offers a serene retreat for employees and clients.

From an early age, Cecilia Torres-Panzera used her childhood bedroom as a canvas, finding joy in thinking unconventionally and not being afraid of creating something weird or ugly if it led to discovery. Identifying with design in a personal way, she endeavors to be empathetic in her work, striving to listen and understand those who she is designing for.

Her winning submission brought a sensory and experiential quality to her project in a small, temporary town in Argentina, utilizing paper structures as a form of storytelling to create an ever-changing environment that leaves its footprint as it disappears, just like the town will cease to exist in a decade.

“Kate, Annie, and Cecilia’s work reflects both their incredible talents and also their tremendous potential, and we are thrilled to support their development through the Brinkmann Scholarship,” says Robin Klehr Avia. “When we recognize their innovative, inspiring approaches to design, we also celebrate Don’s legacy of exceptional creativity.”

Annually, the fund celebrates Brinkmann’s career-long commitment to nurturing emerging design talent. Applications for the scholarship launch in September each year and close in March. Candidates are evaluated based on their analysis and problem-solving skills, design development, graphic presentation, communication skills, and passion.

Learn more about Gensler’s scholarships and other opportunities for emerging talent.

About Gensler
At Gensler, the value of our work stems from its positive impact on the human experience. We are a dynamic and collaborative design firm uniting creativity, research, and innovation to solve complex problems for our clients. Our work challenges conventional ideas about architecture and the built environment. We aren’t just designing buildings — we are reimagining cities and places that make a difference in people’s lives. Founded in 1965, Gensler has built a team of 6,000 professionals who partner with clients in over 100 countries each year. Everything we do is guided by our mission: to create a better world through the power of design.

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