Mihai Andritoiu

For the last seven years, Gensler has released its annual Design Forecast report, which details technology, architecture, and design trends across various industries and sectors. The latest edition—released last week—outlines more than 200 trends in workplace design, the impact of inhabitant lifestyle changes on project needs, and the report's central theme: the future of cities.

"This year’s Design Forecast is focused on cities, diving deep into trends from the Gensler Research Institute about the role of design in creating the places where people live, work, and play in cities across the globe," Gensler co-CEOs Diane Hoskins, FAIA, and Andy Cohen, FAIA, write in their introduction.

According to the 61-page publication, major factors influencing cities today include climate change resiliency, diversity, a growing emphasis on wellness, inequality and inclusivity, multifunctional spaces as means for collaboration, and the evolution of "smart" infrastructure.

"The trends that we identified in Design Forecast address the dramatic changes that are taking place in cities—from the explosion of vertical cities to coworking, data-driven design, resiliency, and more," Cohen tells ARCHITECT. "Companies and individuals can use the report as a dynamic tool to make informed decisions, and also as a platform to consider what’s next in design and cities. "

“Smart cities have the potential to solve major problems and drive innovation, bringing people together to create thriving bringing people together to create thriving ecosystems," Hoskins said in the report.

To achieve this future, the Gensler Research Institute found that cities must "focus on providing smart, transit-rich density," with an emphasis on the human experience.

"As air quality, access to healthy food, and safe spaces for exercise become increasingly important to urban dwellers, cities are looking for ways to integrate these features into every environment," the report reads.

According to the publciation, alternative modes of transportation including scooter and bike shares are becoming more prevalent in cities, and the promise of autonomous vehicles will certainly alter mobility patterns. Gensler calls for increased investment in infrastructure and redevelopment of excess land to better leverage new transport needs.

These factors are also influencing suburban areas competing with nearby cities. For companies selecting suburban locations, those with "convenient, mixed-use, walkable" infrastructure prove desirable for a Millennial workforce, according to the report.

As for trends in workplace design, Gensler's findings further confirm the reality that most businesses know—technology is a driving force in today's world. However, the firm points out that mobility and flexibility afforded by technology has shifted what employees seek from an office environment. "To engage talent, the workplace must prioritize experience," the report reads. Additionally, Gensler emphasizes the importance of design as a differentiator as companies explore alternative coworking spaces.

For spaces related to "lifestyle," Gensler describes single-use spaces as "obsolete."

"Single-use venues are being replaced with synergistic, hybrid destinations; multi-use districts; and places for 24/7, 365-day interaction. Great brand experiences respond to and engage with people in multiple modes—whether they’re completing a task, socializing, discovering, or being entertained."

Instead, brands must prioritize convenience and "seamless design," while leveraging data to better understands user and occupant needs.