Born in Bonn, but to parents from Berlin, Andreas Schulz is the dynamic leader of the multi-award winning German lighting design practice Licht Kunst Licht. He is also Professor for lighting design at HAWK (the Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaft und Kunst) in Hildesheim, Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony), north Germany.
Schulz was always fascinated by light. “As a child I was drawn to its dynamic and special qualities and this fascination focused my career; initially more subconsciously, towards the lighting design profession.” With a technical mind-set, but stemming from a humble background, Schulz originally trained as an electrician in Cologne, but admits that his “heart was always beating for light.”
After his initial training and having worked for a couple of years on construction sites and with financial support from the German government, Schulz then qualified as an electrical engineer. This led to work with a small engineering company in Bonn that was responsible for the maintenance of several department stores there.
This early experience was pivotal in Schulz’s career and developed his abilities as a lighting ‘trouble-shooter’. He found that he was drawn to finding solutions for the lighting installation problems in the department stores and would relish the early morning calls which invited his company to solve them. His specific interest in this field meant that he was well placed and had the opportunity to test his mettel and develop a unique expertise for himself and his company through finding solutions to the problems.
At the end of the 1980’s /early 1990’s Schulz moved to Berlin and into the embryonic lighting design profession that was beginning to evolve there, as in other parts of Europe and the US. This was an exciting time for Berlin and Germany since November 1989 saw the unexpected fall of the Berlin Wall or ‘Mauer’ and final political re-unification or ‘Wiedervereinigung’ of East and West Germany.
Schulz’s early training in Bonn served him well in Berlin where drawing influences from the famous 1970’s lighting design company LichtDesign, he worked on one of his earliest lighting design projects; the prestigious Kunst Museum in Bonn, designed by star Berlin architect Axel Schultes. Because, unlike some other early lighting designers, Schulz had not initially trained as an architect, he found he was able to communicate with many of his famous architect clients in an uninhibited and grounded way. Being unaware of some of the significance of their ‘star’ status, Schulz was happy to explain and resolve problems in a direct way and as such became the lead designer of many high profile and important projects, particularly those of a complex nature.
During the early days in Berlin, Schulz shared an office space with architect Volker Staab until his experiences quickly steered his career path towards the development of his own practice Licht Kunst Licht. This he founded simultaneously in Berlin and Bonn in 1991. Today, the two offices work together and employ a diverse spectrum of talented professionals including architects, interior designers, a stage designer and product designers with a combined total of 25 employees.
“The offices work purely to find the lighting design solutions for new and refurbishment architectural projects using the palettes of artificial and natural light. They are also increasingly required to find and design mechanisms for the lighting design as part of the holistic environmental strategy for a building.”
Currently the Licht Kunst Licht offices are working on over 50 projects that range in size and type and are located across a number of different countries. Current projects include the refurbishment of the parliament building for German Lander state Baden Wurttemberg. This project is particularly sensitive and innovative since the design requirements are to introduce natural lighting into the main assembly space that, in its present state, does not include for daylight infiltration as a main light source. Licht Kunst Licht is therefore working closing with the architects and design team to create specially designed light shafts or ‘funnels’ that will be drilled into the soffit of the assembly zone and bring daylight into the space.
With priorities for building and lighting design to become increasingly more energy efficient and green, Licht Kunst Licht is also working on the design of landmark energy efficient buildings such as a new headquarters for Swiss Re in Zurich, which will be rated a LEED Platinum building. To date Licht Kunst Licht has worked on more than 600 design projects and received over 70 awards with many of these being international and very prestigious.
Schulz considers that he has been very lucky to have had the opportunity to work on such a portfolio and attributes much of the success of Licht Kunst Licht to its office structure and ethos. This includes a flat hierarchy and working methods that he describes as interactive and responsive. This means that the design team are able to work chaotically and creatively but also in a structured way, thus allowing them to work well within the established frameworks of building design delivery structures.
When considering the broader influences to his work and the designs of Licht Kunst Licht, Schulz cites the architects Louis Khan and Peter Zumthor who have inspired him with their different understandings of and individual approaches to light. Otherwise Schulz considers his influences to be diverse and from across many different design fields. With an understanding that lighting design is neither a purely technical nor an artistic profession, Schulz also believes that the best lighting designers have a very strong empathy for art and the arts.
From the very earliest days of Licht Kunst Licht, Schulz has collated details of all the projects that the offices have worked on and these are documented in a series of books. No favourite projects are highlighted since all are considered important for their own special qualities and there are certainly no ‘black-listed’ projects that do not get included. It is Schulz’s belief that the offices should be able to be open and transparent about their work and projects, thus enabling the delivery of quality.
The last 24 years, since the formation of Licht Kunst Licht, have seen many cultural and technological changes in the evolution of the architectural lighting design profession. It has developed from something little understood and only supported and occupied by a few passionate individuals into a globally established and respected profession with institutional support. Schulz and Licht Kunst Licht have understood these developments and their significance to enhance architectural design, but also how light is literally able to add an extra dimension to architecture, which is considered by the best clients to be of clear and obvious value. In other cases a clear understanding is communicated that for a relatively small budget, in comparison to that often spent on design finishes and fittings, a building and its architecture can be significantly enhanced with the implementation of good lighting design.
“Despite recent developments in the architectural lighting design profession, the standards of and for its delivery across nations are still embryonic, variable and in flux.” While joking that he would not recommend the profession to others; so that Licht Kunst Licht does not have too much competition, Schulz currently works to support its development by inspiring students with his teaching work as a professor at HAWK.
“Technological developments over the last two decades have strongly impacted the lighting design profession. The design language has moved on from one incorporating the hundred year old technology of GLS lamps developed by Swan and Edison as a main source, to one that employs LED lamps and associated systems.” Andreas considers these new technologies to offer special opportunities and challenges when designing the lit environment, especially in consideration to the potential for lighting control and the development of smart buildings. He considers the complex nature of these new systems to offer lighting designers the potential for a larger design remit and take them into some of the territories that have previously been occupied by others such as electrical engineers. Likewise with the development of building design cultures, which have now in some cases displaced the more conventional hierarchies with the architects leading a project, Schulz sees the opportunity for the lighting designer to take more of a leading role.
Working as an architectural lighting designer combined with his teaching role and the development of his offices has given Schulz and Licht Kunst Licht the unique opportunity to work with many interesting and diverse clients; but also within different cultural contexts including between the two very different German cities of Berlin and Bonn.
He has been able to see the great potential this developing profession has to bridge across different technological and disciplinary boundaries ranging from pure architecture, industrial and stage design to engineering and the automotive industry, and derived inspiration from all of these.
In summary, Schulz’s early technical and practical training and his willingness to find solutions to problems, combined with a talent to see opportunity, to learn and to communicate, has led him to the very top of his profession and, as he describes himself, to become a very happy man.