Los Olivos, shown here, offers homes within minutes of parks, jobs and shopping, as envisioned by the Irvine Master Plan.

Planner says Irvine’s live-work-play environment is a model for future cities

by TOM BERG

It turns out Irvine’s design as a city of villages is exactly what the world is looking for as it emerges from the pandemic.

That’s according to the global design and architectural firm Gensler, which recently published its 158-page “Design Forecast 2021.”

The report cites a growing trend toward “20-minute neighborhoods – where every commercial, residential and institutional need is within a 20-minute walk or bike ride of each other.”

And that describes Irvine.

“When you think about it, Irvine already provides this,” says James Young, design principal and managing director of Gensler’s Newport Beach office. “Irvine has created these villages where people can live, work, play and enjoy the outdoors in a really wonderful way. This is how people want to live.”

“This is how people want to live.” – GENSLER’S JAMES YOUNG ON IRVINE’S VILLAGE LIFESTYLE

A key aspect of Gensler’s “20-minute neighborhood” concept is access to workplaces close to home. And not just any workplaces, but “people-first” workplaces that welcome employees back to the office to collaborate – while feeling safe at the same time.

Young cites Irvine Company’s new office campuses – Spectrum Terrace and Innovation Office Park – as prime examples. Both are lushly landscaped with plenty of trees, paths and opportunities to walk outside to cafes and open-air pavilions and fitness centers.

“It is a wonderful experience,” he says. “And it’s the right thing to do for people to get out and be able to walk around.”

Gensler, perennially named the world’s No. 1 architectural firm, has more than 5,200 employees in 50 offices spread across 16 countries.


Fostering community through design

Gensler is the world’s No. 1 architectural firm – known for designing Apple stores and exotic buildings around the world.

So when it releases its annual design forecast, cities take notice.

This year’s report has an unmistakable message for communities: Bringing people together in person, not virtually, is essential.

The forecast outlines how public spaces can be activated to bring people together and how offices should be more than just for work – they should be social spaces that foster collaboration and community.

In many ways, this people-first approach is the cornerstone of the firm itself.

Its founder, Art Gensler, was world-renowned for his collaborative approach.

“It’s not about me,” he liked to say. “It’s about what we call a constellation of stars. Everybody is a star; it takes all of us to do a project.”