Resilient Cities Begin With Resilient People
By Kathleen Carey
At Gensler, we understand how the power of design can strengthen the health and wellness of our communities. In fact, it’s one of the four main focus areas in our Community Impact strategy. Through our volunteer activities and pro bono initiatives, we target unique challenges related to the physical and emotional resiliency of our cities by ensuring the people who live there – our neighbors, friends, and families – are included in the design process as much as possible.
For over 15 years, our Denver office has supported some of the most vulnerable among us through their partnership with the non-profit organization Access Gallery. The gallery’s mission is to create a sense of community and nurture creativity among young adults with intellectual and physical disabilities in the greater Denver area. Gensler’s partnership with Access Gallery began through a graphic design mentoring program called Giving Voice. The program pairs Gensler mentors with the Gallery’s students to create posters that capture something important to the students’ lives, whether it’s a cause they care about, a hobby or interest, or their hopes for the future.
Access Gallery and Gensler Denver were natural partners from the beginning. Gensler colleagues lead marketing and branding strategies, serve on the Board of Directors, and continue to run Giving Voice and other volunteer activities. A colleague in Denver even remarked that as her work with Access Gallery expanded, she feels like she’s become a better designer, saying, “designing with an inclusive eye has astronomically broadened my expertise and understanding of space.”
Everyone in the Denver office feels connected to Access Gallery, even the 2019 Class of Summer Interns, who challenged themselves to design a conceptual new space for Access Gallery’s users, families, and visitors. As part of their summer research project, the interns extensively researched various design and technical details to create a calming, focused, creative space that takes into account the unique needs of those with physical or mental limitations. The final design recommends an abundance of natural light to reinforce visual connectivity, calming sensory spaces, ample circulation room to account for wheelchairs, and much needed storage space for the art materials.
The history and future potential of the successful partnership was recognized nationally when Gensler and Access Gallery won the David Rockefeller pARTnership for the Arts Award from the Americans for the Arts Foundation. The award recognizes the power of arts within communities, and how that power is compounded when private companies and arts organizations collaborate. Past winners include Square and Cheyenne River Youth Project, and Uniqlo and the Museum of Modern Art. In Denver and around the world, we are committed to the health and wellness of our communities and to working with partners like Access Gallery wherever we are.