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Design Discussions with Gensler’s John Cantu

Posted by in Designer Curated, Discover |

John Cantu of Gensler Atlanta Talks the Future of Design, Mediums That Inspire Him, and Why He’s Loving the Open Office Concept

Each October, Mohawk Group hosts leading interior designers and architects from around the country at our FWD conference. For three days, we explore cultural trends and design influencers in an inspirational setting. Between design lectures, trend forecasting sessions and art excursions, attendees are immersed in inspiration and creativity. The collective talent, design thinking, and collaboration is invaluable for our guests, as they share their own creative thoughts and passions with us, and each other. This year’s FWD conference was held in Santa Fe, where the landscape and culture provided a remarkable setting ready to inspire. We will be checking in with some of these designers who attended FWD, to see what personally inspires them, as well as share some of their design aspirations with you.

What inspires you personally and professionally?

I’m constantly inspired by the visual arts…painting, folk art, sculpture or film. Currently, I’m obsessed with quilting, particularly the quilts of Gee’s Bend, Ala. I’m always in search of new color adjacencies and proportions. 

My fascination with quilting is also part of a larger (cultural) discussion. In some ways, it represents my personal rebellion against the digital age (or at least an attempt to find a sense of equilibrium with it). It represents my desire to escape the constant bombardment of technology and reconnect with my senses — to exercise my senses, and thus to feel more human.


Work clothes quilt; Mary Lee Bendolph, 2002


Two-sided work-clothes quilt: Bars and blocks; Loretta Pettway, c. 1960

How do you stay current on cultural trends that affect design?

Typically, I follow sites like The Cool Hunter, but fashion plays a huge role as well.

What’s next for the future of the design industry?

I think we’re going to see a full merging (or morphing) of disparate form and space. We’re already seeing offices that look like hotels, homes that look like offices, lobbies that feel like higher ed, slaughterhouses that become advertising agencies. Transgendered space and form will dominate the next century and everything will have a dual purpose. Everything will be adaptable…1 + 1 will equal 3…liminal design will be the future!

What one building or interior space do you wish that you had designed?

Wow, this is a tough one. There are so many! At the moment I’m obsessed with the Trocadero Apartment by Francois Champsaur


Photo: The Cool Hunter

What are your most favorite things on your desk?

We don’t have designated desks in our Gensler Atlanta office! We’ve embraced dynamic seating (and it’s great!). It has allowed us to increase the spatial efficiency of our office and experience firsthand what we preach. That being said, if I had to answer the question, I’d say sitting next to a different person every day is my favorite thing (not on my desk, but next to it)!

john cantu -rJohn Cantu, NCIDQ, Gensler Atlanta

John Cantu is a senior designer at Gensler Atlanta. With 15 years of experience, John’s approach to design emphasizes the sentient response to the built environment. John has a Bachelor in Design from the University of Florida and a Masters in Architecture from Princeton University.