Sara Schonour LC, Associate IALDThe Boston Business Journal has published a Q+A feature article focused on Sara Schonour and her leadership of our Lighting Design Studio. The article highlights how Sara built the firm’s lighting studio from the ground up and is well versed in the role light can play in the realization of beautiful spaces that are also sensitive to the consumption of energy and natural resources. Specifically, it references her team’s work with Tufts Arnold Laboratories in Boston, CJ Blossom Park (the 2018 Lab of the Year) in South Korea, and the Novartis Institute for BioMedical Research, Cambridge Campus.

The full article can be read online. Below are key excerpts:

On how Sara became interested in lighting design
It was not something I set out initially to do when I started on my career path. To be completely transparent, I thought I’d probably go into architecture or something else on the design side, and it was my mom who said, ‘Hey, you know you should probably think about engineering. I think you’d do okay in architecture, but you would also probably be really challenged by engineering.’ … She was very keen on me not having to depend on a man ever in my life. … I think she was worried about me becoming a starving architect or something.

She turned me onto the fact that there was such a thing called ‘architectural engineering,’ and I landed at the Penn State program, partially because it was a five-year program with a thesis. I thought I would go into structural engineering, but then I found out that if buildings fall down, that would be on me, which was too much responsibility. Lucky for me, the very next classes were in lighting. I just completely fell in love. It really exercised both the left and the right sides of my brain … the combination of art and science and the technicality of it, with also the ethereal nature of light made it something that just grabbed me, and it didn’t let go.

Sara Schonour Crop

Sara Schonour Crop

On her work with the Novartis Cambridge Campus expansion
The crown jewel that we’ve recently completed is the Novartis Cambridge Campus Expansion project, which was an enormous effort, a three-building (800,000-square-foot) complex, one of which is almost completely underground. … That was a real challenge, as well as probably my favorite one that we’ve done locally, because it brought together so many different aspects of design. Definitely referencing that whole left brain-right brain workout, definitely pushed both sides. Both (Toshiko Mori Architects and Maya Lin Architects) are rigorous, in terms of their design aesthetics in different ways. We managed the lighting team … which had a lot of moving parts, so between the hard science of vivariums, and what needs to happen for chemicals and a bunch of other complicated aspects, to creating an iconic building in an expanding [science and technology] hotspot that is Boston, we really had to play both sides, and there was a lot to sink our teeth into on that project. The project was a seven-year effort.

On what makes Boston different from other markets, when it comes to lighting
One of the huge strengths of the Boston market is the camaraderie in the lighting community itself, which I think is pretty atypical. … Several different groups are really active and work together. … You’ve probably heard all kinds of things these days about light and health and circadian rhythms, and how we can use light to help enable productivity in the workplace, and satisfaction, and branding, and all other kinds of things that touch on these. Those conversations require … the ability to really hone in and communicate well with clients, as well as the other spectrum of people that are decision-makers in our projects. These conversations are happening openly and organically, among these groups, which is not always the case in different areas of the country. So, I think we’re a little bit different, in that we are pushing as a team and I also think we are a little different, because, in our particular market, in our area, we’ve got the MITs and the Harvards, and the [science and technology] and dot-com bubbles, and everything that’s happening in the Seaport and Cambridge, etc., and I think that those kinds of clients are helping us push the conversation, and become the leaders in these kinds of technologies in the implication and application of the technologies.

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