Note: This article appeared as part of the 2003 Hall of Fame series.
The word pioneer --\ pi ' o-nir ' \ one who opens or prepares others for a new line of thought or activity-is definitely synonymous with Jules Horton.
If one were to ask what Jules Horton contributed to the lighting design profession, it would have to be that he believed in lighting design and its future as a recognized profession. During his 35-year career, he mentored so many of us, not only as designers but leaders of the second and even third generation of lighting professionals. As many in lighting know, Jules used his worldly experiences, raw talent, determination, style and charm often to create exceptional design solutions. He thrived on challenges and fought for what he believed in-sometimes too hard and in the process lost the battle. Although he may have lost some battles, lessons were learned by all of those who learned from him. We understood his enormous passion for the search of excellence in lighting.
Jules retired from the profession starting in 1994 and in 1998, was honored by the IALD in recognition for his many contributions. At the time, the firm now known as Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design Inc. (HLBLD) prepared a list of all those who worked with Jules over the past 35 years and are still in the lighting profession-amazingly, 125 people have crossed paths with Jules Horton and many have gone on to become leaders and principals of their own firms or principals in HLBLD.
As many in the industry may know, Jules was trained as a structural engineer at the Polytechnic Institute in Warsaw, Poland, and in 1947, came to the U.S. to obtain his master's at Columbia University. He earned his PE and designed the radio tower located above the Empire State Building. His passion for art, music, language and literature connected him to many interesting circles of friends. One of the most significant people he met was Abe Feder, who introduced Jules to the world of architectural lighting. He apprenticed under Abe for several years and eventually left to start a lighting department with Syska & Hennessey. After several years of working on projects such as the new Madison Square Garden and the Triborough Bridge, he was asked to design the lighting of the Whitestone and Throgs' Neck Bridges for the 1964 World's Fair.
By the time Jules was ready to open his own firm, he had several large-scale, monumental lighting projects under his belt. The firm was launched in 1969 from his living-room studio. He incorporated the firm in 1970 and opened a studio on Park Avenue South with the commission of one of his first large-scale projects for the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport with HOK. The project, like most airport projects, was several years in the making. Simultaneously, he developed a strong relationship with several prominent architectural firms across the country, which led to the design of several international projects including Jeddah International Airport, University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia and Tour de Crédit Lyonnais in Lyon, France. His European background and fluency in English, Polish, German, Russian, French and Italian served him well.
In a conversation with Jules some years ago, he revealed that he was the innovator of the 2x2 lensed fixture used widely in offices in the 1970s. Having learned that the sign industry had developed a u-shaped fluorescent lamp for compact signage, he saw an opportunity and went on to design a white metal box with a prismatic lens to shield the light source. The fixture was used in a large office project located in New York in the early '70s. It is amazing that his one simple move would dramatically influence the lighting industry as we know it today. And as anyone who knows Jules could attest, while he naturally boasts of his many accomplishments in life or often tells stories of his survival in a Russian labor camp in the Arkhangelsk Islands, Russia, in this case and in many others, when it came to truly discussing his innovations, he checked his enormous ego and became almost unaware of the impact that his idea had on today's office environment.
In 1976, he hired Stephen Lees, who went on to become a partner in the firm in 1984. In response to their West Coast clients, Jules and Stephen opened a San Francisco office in 1984 with Denise Bruya-Fong. In 1992, Barbara Horton stepped into his shoes as president after many years of being mentored. As Jules phased out of the business, the two partners expanded the firm once again with a Los Angeles office headed by Teal Brogden. The firm thrives with over 32 studio members in three offices-New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco-and is owned and managed by four principals: Barbara Horton, Stephen Lees, Teal Brogden and Angela McDonald.
Since retiring, Jules has stayed quietly at home exploring his passion for music, art and literature. His travels have been curtailed because of arthritis, which stemmed from knee injuries during the war. For those of you who know Jules, this is a terrible thing for him because he so loved to travel abroad, explore art galleries, attend concerts and opera and was never daunted by adversity. He recently began to venture out with the help of an attendant and his world, at almost 84, is reopening again.