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VIDEO: Gensler's Grassroots Movement to Transform Communities

Out of a passion to call the design shots and a desire to make the built world a better place, the Gensler young professional group, ByDesign, was born.

The Houston-based group, which consists of 10-15 members and is now in its third year, seeks to foster conversation about the built environment at home and abroad. Their ideas range from bold city redevelopments to transformations of underutilized, highly visible areas. The site selections and design solutions are a direct reflection of the personality and passion of each team member.

A Grassroots Movement

Coming out of architecture school, many young designers aspire to be the Renzo Piano’s and Bjarke Ingels of the world, but they quickly find out that even the greats had to start somewhere. In 2014, a small group of designers in Gensler’s Houston office decided to volunteer their time to inspire design and create an impact in their city. As a place to start, the young professionals came together and started submitting to online design competitions, some close to home, some as far as Asia and Europe.

From there, the group began to incorporate new technologies into their designs: laser cutting models, 3-D printing, augmented reality and virtual reality. Through this experimentation, the designers gained new knowledge, taught each other new skills and shined spotlights on important issues like evolving transportation, urban blight and housing equity.

Image © Gensler

In 2015, the group held its first event, inviting Gensler clients to hear their ideas for the future of Houston. The crowd listened intently to their ideas while sipping on local brewed beer and wine. The event was youthful, raw and fresh, yet it captured something timeless that all designers aspire to have: the ability to be the captain of your own design.

In March 2017, ByDesign held a successful client event in the Gensler Houston office, in which members presented their designs surrounding Houston urban planning and transportation. With the Houston economy amid an oil-driven economic downturn, the event proved to generate much excitement within the commercial real estate community. The media was also invited to the event and highlighted each group’s idea in detail.

Hear ByDesign on the local NPR affiliate show Houston Matters.

Image © Gensler/Phenlada Pattanasuwanna

Looking Ahead

ByDesign’s innovative ideas drew media attention of local TV, radio and print outlets. Those features helped introduce the group’s designs to a broader audience within the Houston community. ByDesign’s body of work has explored different areas around the world, including Tokyo, Marfa and Houston.

Read about the group’s body of work.

More recently, the group saw Hurricane Harvey as a call-to-action. Being a local and world leader in architecture and design comes with responsibility, and ByDesign is stepping up to provide aid and serve those in need. The group is rolling out a post-Harvey design competition to explore design solutions to help those who have been affected by Harvey. The group poses the question: How do we provide affordable housing solutions to those who have lost their homes and sense of security? Whether it is a temporary or permanent solution, Gensler and ByDesign are in the business of creating a better world through the power of design.

Read more about the ByDesign group.

2017 ByDesign Committee Members: Jong Kim, Shawn Conte, Laura Robinson, Paulina Abella and Kevin Perks.

Jong Kim is a co-founder of the Gensler Houston ByDesign group. He is a board member for Houston Tomorrow, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for all the people in the Houston region. Born in South Korea and raised in Alaska he now calls Houston home. Contact him at jong_kim@gensler.com.
Shaina Pherigo is the Gensler Houston Public Relations Manager and a native born Texan. She is highly inspired by the built environment and passionate about urban improvements that make shared places enjoyable attributes for entire cities. Contact her at shaina_pherigo@gensler.com.