This story was originally published in Architectural Lighting.

Robert Shook, director of lighting design firm Schuler Shook
Joshua Albanese Robert Shook, director of lighting design firm Schuler Shook

Robert (Bob) Shook has successfully navigated a 40-plus-year career in theatrical and architectural lighting. Enamored with theater during high school in Louisville, Ky., he went on to earn degrees in theatrical lighting and production design. Working in Chicago in the 1970s and early 1980s, he crossed paths with fellow lighting designer Duane Schuler, whose practice was also growing beyond the theater. In 1986, the two formed Schuler Shook. From the beginning, the firm developed a unique dual practice to handle the nuances of both theater consulting and architectural lighting projects, and has since grown substantially beyond its initial Chicago and Minneapolis locations.

What drew you from theatrical lighting to architectural lighting design?
In theater, you create a piece of art and six weeks later it’s gone. I wanted to design something that had more permanence.

How would you describe what a lighting designer does?
We determine the quality and quantity of light for all living spaces. Well-designed lighting enhances the architecture and the environment.

What is an ongoing challenge in the practice of lighting design?
We need better visualization tools. Some newer graphics applications make it a bit easier, but it’s still very time consuming to try to graphically communicate lighting accurately to architects and clients.

What are you most excited about in terms of how lighting technology has evolved?
For decades, we’ve been wanting to get a lot of light out of a little bitty thing. That’s why MR16s became so popular; they could produce a good quality beam out of a small aperture. Now we can do that so easily, and in so many form factors: holes, squares, lines, edges, and corners.

How do you view your role as a lighting designer on the project team?
We react to the other members of the design team and come up with a scheme. I want them to own the lighting as well.

What advice would you give a young lighting designer?
To best understand how light behaves, be a constant observer of light and shadow. •

“Your ability to communicate lighting intent is a key factor in your success at being a lighting designer. You have to know who you are talking to.” -- Robert Shook, director of Schuler Shook in Chicago

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