June 1, 2014

Ronette King: 2001 Hall of Fame Inductee

Ronette King

She grew up on a colonial farmstead in New Hampshire’s countryside, a detail that had, as it turned out, considerable bearing on her future career. When very young, she briefly fancied herself as a proficient pianist, a short-lived vision brought to an abrupt end by a music mistress who applauded her passionate keyboard pounding but deplored her inattention to technicalities. She earned a BFA in Interior Architecture from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Her influences included Ward Bennett and instructor Joe D’Urso, who “supported, rather than imposed” the tenets and theories of design. At this time, she also developed her skills for producing retail renderings, which, in pre-CAD day, proved to be a welcome freelance source of income. All was fine; only the winter weather was most foul. Not wont to waffle, she bought a one way ticket to San Francisco in 1972. She’s still there.

She, of course, is Ronette King, now one of five-plus


members of the Interior Design Hall of Fame. Others are

Arthur Gensler


Margo Grant Walsh

, the late

Don Brinkmann

, and

Antony Harbour

; the “plus” refers to

Orlando Diaz-Azcuy

, who was inducted in 1988, one year after leaving Gensler to open his own studio. He and Ms. King met in the mid-’70s, when she was working as a freelancer from Mr. Diaz-Azcuy’s environmental design firm. They became friends and, after moving to Gensler in ’76, he urged her to follow. Twenty-one years later, Ms. King’s mock-exasperated comment about the recruitment is: “He can sell you anything.” She sounds glad that he could and did.

Joining Gensler San Francisco in 1980, Ms. King was promoted to vice president four years later. She has served on most prominent Gensler committees, acting as mentor rather than supervisor by setting an example for neophyte staffers. Her CV lists 41 major completed jobs in six commercial categories, adding up to 6,340,000 sq. ft., should anyone ask. Projects include new executive headquarters for Charles Schwab, Chevron Corp. headquarters, and expansion of the Moscone Convention Center, as well as Executive Headquarters for Reliant Resources in Houston.

Ending, then, with a return to the countryside, Ms. King ascribes her present values to the forceful influence of nature. Life on the gentleman’s farm taught her to cherish the Shaker aesthetic and convinced her that design should convey a message of purpose. Her endorsement of simplicity and “controlled craftsmanship” has become an enduring legacy, enriching her as a professional and making her more endearing as a person.

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