In Memoriam: Ed Friedrichs

Ed Friedrichs

In the 5-day period from between May 8th and May 13th we lost three huge stars of the architecture and commercial interior design world. I didn’t learn of Ed Friedrichs passing until it was too late for last week’s issue; for that I am truly sorry.

Edward Charles Friedrichs, III, age 77, passed away peacefully at his Reno, NV home May 13, 2021 after a months-long decline due to heart disease.

The renowned architect, visionary leader and author was a much-loved husband, father, grandfather, stepfather, brother, uncle and friend. Ed was born in Hayward, CA to Edward Charles Friedrichs, Jr. and Lizette Hauschildt Friedrichs. He completed his undergraduate degree at Stanford University in 1965 and earned the Master of Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968.

For 34 years Ed was a key leader at Gensler. He was a driving force in establishing the firm’s successful practice areas in entertainment, transportation, urban and master planning and strategic facility consulting.

Ed in the very early days at Gensler’s

I asked Barbara Dunn, FIIDA, CID, Principal at Gensler and a close associate of Ed’s to comment on the impact he had on those who worked with him and knew him –  and can speak to his legacy.

She wrote, “ Ed was an amazing leader who not only led the loyal stable of people he worked with so closely, but also influenced the design and real estate industry, and was a champion for the Community. I grew up “under the influence” of Ed Friedrichs. After 40 years at Gensler, lessons I learned from him early on still resonate and guide my professional path.

“He taught me the value of our clients—how to serve them and stretch them to achieve design excellence.  He supported my nascent venture into business development.  I remember upon my first project-win Ed enthusiastically remarked, “Doesn’t it feel great!”  An inspirational mentor and motivator, I always left a visit with Ed in his office feeling like I could conquer the world. Most of all, he encouraged us all to be curious, explore and take risks.

“Ed brought a fresh perspective. He saw great design as an integral part of business strategy and showed clients how it was a return on investment – increasing employee performance and enriching the human spirit.  While many firms relied on the talent of a single star designer, Ed saw the talent at Gensler as a “constellation of stars”.  His legacy shines bright.”

Marv Taff, Ed Friedrichs and Art Gensler in the Gensler Los Angeles office, circa the late 1970’s.

Ed opened Gensler’s Los Angeles office in 1976 building it into a regional powerhouse. Art Gensler ask him to return to San Francisco in order to better impact the entire organization. In 1995 he was named President and CEO, and he remained in that role until his retirement in 2003. In his time as CEO he was a key figure in the growth of Gensler.

He co-created the firm’s management structure and mentored the core leadership team that succeeded him. In retirement, Ed formed Friedrichs Group to pursue his interest in guiding the development of high-performance organizations and places, focusing on strategy, culture and values, organizational issues, sales and marketing design.

He was a prolific and gifted writer. His book, “Long-Cycle Strategies for a Short-Cycle World,” describes his strategies for leading a creative enterprise. He was a life-long motorcyclist who shared his passion for riding and his adventures around the world in his book, “Liberation – Searching for myself and the world around me on a motorcycle.” Recently he was a prolific blogger with a large following in the architecture and design world.

The former president of San Francisco’s Montgomery Street Motorcycle Club, spent vacations motorcycling throughout the US and Europe.
Ed loved Ducatis

Ed served on the Executive Council of the Large Firm Roundtables for both the AIA and IIDA and he was one of a very small number of people to have been recognized as a “Fellow” in both professional societies.

In 2019 he was inducted into the Stanford Professionals in Real Estate (SPIRE) Hall of Fame, the first architect/designer to be so honored.

He served on the Board of Overseers of Penn Design, the graduate school of architecture, planning and design at the University of Pennsylvania until 2014 and had been a member of a number of other boards, including Glumac and Miyamoto International, multi-office engineering services firms and Harrison French Associates, a multi-discipline architecture and engineering firm.

His bright energy and charismatic personality will be sorely missed, but fondly remembered by the many he touched.