By Avraham Mendall Mor, “Avi,” LEED AP,
IESNA, lighting designer, Lightswitch Inc.

It’s a funny thing, how I got to where I am today and where I will be in the next 20 years. I went to the University of Kansas (KU) after graduating from New Trier High School. At New Trier, I discovered my love of lighting. In the four years I was in high school, I must have worked on 15+ productions. The summer before college (1997), I went to work as a shop technician for Chicago Spotlight.

At KU, I worked for the Lied Center as a stagehand working load-ins and running the lighting console. I took every advantage to design a show. My summers were spent working in Chicago for Performance Lighting (then Pete’s Lights).

In the summer of 2002, I was working for Pete’s Lights and stuck in a rut when I got my April 2000 Lighting Dimensions. This issue changed my life. To this day, I still have the magazine.

On page 110 in the classifieds section, there was an ad for a “Lighting Designer – Entry Level” with a Chicago phone number. I immediately contacted Schuler Shook and sent them my digital portfolio.

See, at the time, I was worried about how I was going to make money and not live in New York. I loved Chicago too much, and here was a firm looking for someone like me. I was really excited.

A few weeks later, I met Jim Baney and Carla Bukalski and found my dream gig. Carla was an alumna of KU and pointed me in the right direction of classes to take at KU and informed me of their internship program. My goal was to return to KU and become an architectural and theatrical lighting designer. I had no idea it existed, and KU had a great program!

KU allowed me to replace acting, directing, and script analysis with calculus and other ArchE classes. In the summer of 2001, I was the Schuler Shook summer intern. I got to work with everyone. It was a busy time in the office—Millennium Park, Soldier Field, and their new offices were all being designed, and I learned it all. I met all the reps and learned the system.

When I returned to KU, I figured I’d graduate and return to work for Shuler Shook. Unfortunately, that was not in the stars for me. Fortunately, I had attended LDI for the last five years, and the friends and contacts I made with many of the major manufacturers helped me put some great feelers out there. My job search was over six months before I even graduated from college.

I went to work for Marty Lazarus at Chicago Spotlight as his project manager after I graduated in 2002 with a BFA in Theatre Design with an emphasis in Architectural and Theatrical Lighting Design. Marty gave me the opportunity to project manage jobs like Millennium Park. While I worked at CSP, I designed theatres, worked a few shows, attended many meetings, and still managed to design a few architectural jobs. I learned so much about the design/bid/build processes in my short time at CSP. Unfortunately, the design bug was biting me, and I needed to stop selling product and start selling my designs.

In the fall of 2003, I invited Robert Shook to lunch because I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to work for a firm like his but felt it wasn’t the right fit for me. Bob pointed me to my current home.

He pointed me to an ideal, a team, a group, and one man: John Featherstone and Lightswitch, Inc. When I first spoke to John, our conversation went on for hours, after months of emails to schedule the call. The first time I met him was at a load-in at the Arie Crown Theatre. I was in awe. It was so cool.

In January 2004, I joined the Lightswitch Chicago team to build up the architectural business. In the last four years, I have completed “Ancient Americas” at the Field Museum, a renovation of the College of DuPage McAnnich Arts Center, an elementary school in a Chicago suburb, two Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab in Las Vegas, NV, and Wildfire in Glenview, IL.

I’m currently designing a few new museums, three hotels (22+ stories), a LEED Silver Theatre, a pool for a condo association with all LED lighting (50% reduction in lighting power), and I’m only 28. I’m the vice president of the IESNA Chicago Section, an associate member of the IALD, a LEED Accredited Professional, affiliate member of AIA Chicago, and a committee chair for the USGBC Chicago.

In the next 20 years, I hope to be the LEEDing lighting designer. Green is the name of the new game, and I hope to be the designer to turn to.

I look forward to LEDs being used in all new ways, and the old ideas of lamps and fixtures being replaced with these innovative ideas. I look forward to the end of huge dimmer rooms and the introduction of wireless control for each fixture that is easily installed.