Gensler (Stone Soup Group)
Based in its Los Angeles office, Gensler’s Stone Soup Group is charged with instigating and shaping metropolitan change and transformation through opportunistic and prototype-driven design thinking at a range of increments and scales. Its work is linked not by familiar tropes or stylistic similarity, but rather by a radical pragmatism in design approach that seeks to yield unexpected formal outcomes through detailed, sometimes counterintuitive, analysis of the circumstantial facts of a given problem as these facts interface with the effects of larger territorial or even global change. Often, its work centers on under-resourced communities—especially those vulnerable to climate, economic, and social shocks (disruptive events) and stressors (progressive shifts). The group’s projects range from new models of permanent supportive housing to infrastructure and urban development plans, community “oases” (resilience hubs), and other new forms of public space such as those tied to digital life. These testbeds span from South L.A. to Sunset Boulevard; from Haiti to Cameroon; and Wuhan to northern New Zealand. Rather than waiting for projects to present themselves, the Stone Soup Group creates them—modeling itself more on the idea of the architect-as-producer than as director-auteur. The group begins its work much further upstream from the conventional design-then-build paradigm, acting as an incubator. This means looking first not to a client, but rather scouting for confluences of motives, means, and opportunities that the group encounters in the course of its ongoing, research-based design. These often emerge from parallel and circumstantial conversations with collaborators and experts from other disciplines that stretch the periphery of the design field. Eventually, these become a hypothesis or design proposition—importantly serving as the stone (pretext) required to make the soup (project)—in which participants see the start of a solution to a problem that they have an investment in solving.