During his nearly four-decade-long career in architecture, Andy Cohen has left an indelible imprint on the industry and at his firm, Gensler. He joined Gensler 36 years ago as a designer focused on sustainability. Since taking on the role of collaborative co-CEO in 2005, along with Diane Hoskins, Cohen has helped grow the firm into a global powerhouse racking up almost $1.2 billion in revenue in 2015.
“With Andy’s guidance, Gensler has been recognized as not only the largest, but also the most admired design firm in the U.S.,” says Rob Jernigan, Gensler’s co-regional managing principal for the Southwest. “Over the course of his career at Gensler, Andy has accelerated our culture of design excellence and innovation.”
Cohen oversees day-to-day operations of Gensler’s 46 offices around the globe, serving more than 2,700 clients in 120 nations. It’s the largest architecture firm in the U.S., according to data collected by ENR and published in Architectural Record.
While Cohen dreamed of becoming an architect from a young age, his path could have easily gone in another direction.
“Not many people know this as I’ve been here in California for so long, but I’m from Manhattan and was supposed to run my family’s dairy store, Cohen’s Dairy, on the Lower East Side,” he says.
A “passion for design” led him instead to Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, where he earned a degree in architecture in 1978. After a brief stint working in New York City, Cohen looked west. “I discovered California and I never looked back,” he says.
When Cohen joined Gensler’s Los Angeles office, the firm had 390 employees. That number is currently greater than 5,000.
Cohen has opened up new practice areas for Gensler, including global aviation and transportation. The firm has completed work at such airports as Atlanta; Los Angeles; Denver; Incheon, South Korea; and elsewhere.
Cohen also founded Gensler’s entertainment center practice and later diversified it from its initial focus on movie studio facilities to address urban entertainment centers, theme parks and mixed-use projects.
“I deal with a lot of architects, and I’ve never come across anyone as unique and sensitive to the client as he is,” says Lew Wolff, chairman and CEO of Wolff Urban Development and co-owner of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, for whom Gensler has designed numerous buildings over the past two decades, including spring training ballparks and office buildings. “Andy is uniquely qualified to give you very direct answers and very creative at the same time,” he adds.
Throughout his career, Cohen has focused on sustainable design and organically incorporates it into many of Gensler’s projects. For example, the recently completed Shanghai Tower—at 632 meters the world’s second-tallest building after the 828-m Burj Khalifa in Dubai—achieved LEED-Platinum status.
Cohen also speaks and mentors on sustainability and design innovation with many industry groups, including the Urban Land Institute, Milken Institute Global Conference and the University of California-Los Angeles Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, where he serves on the board.
“I continue to be inspired by the opportunities here in California and beyond to continue to elevate our industry and to truly make a difference,” Cohen says. “I’m excited to harness design innovation to solve complex problems, to mentor and help cultivate the next generation of design leaders and to partner with the best and brightest in our industry to deliver game-changing projects that continue to raise the bar.”