Internationally known lighting designer, inventor, entrepreneur, and academic, Sylvan R. Shemitz, known to friends and colleagues as Sy, died on July 5, 2007, while sailing his boat, the Light Fantastic, on Long Island Sound.
Part of the generation of designers who established architectural lighting as a professional discipline, Shemitz founded his own firm—New Haven, Connecticut based-Sylvan R. Shemitz Associates in 1963. As a lighting designer, he worked on such signature projects as the original lighting of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C., and the façade lighting for Grand Central Terminal in New York City. In the 1980s Shemitz worked with architect Helmut Jahn on the United Airlines Terminal at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, synthesizing daylighting and nighttime illumination that was integral to the architecture. The resulting glowing glass-shed was a modern interpretation of a grand European rail station and became a landmark heralding the future of transportation terminal design. Other major projects in Shemitz's portfolio included the Children's Medical Center of Israel, the Yale Law Library, and the CN Tower in Toronto.
As founder and CEO of architectural lighting manufacturer, Sylvan R. Shemitz Designs Inc., he held over 30 patents for major innovations in asymmetric lighting under the company's elliptipar brand formed in 1976, and featured most recently in the addition for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. As the inventor and proponent of task/ambient office lighting, known to the industry as Tambient, Shemitz lit workplaces for major companies including 3M, IBM, and Bell Atlantic.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, and fellow of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, Shemitz was known for his passion for lighting and mentoring of lighting professionals and students alike; he was a visiting lecturer on several architecture school faculties including Yale, Princeton, Tulane, and Penn.
A U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, Shemitz had a lifelong love of sailing. A competitive yacht racer, he was particularly proud of his sailing accomplishments; he competed in the Newport-Bermuda race 12 times.
A member of ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING's 2002 Hall of Fame, when asked what would be his advice to those entering lighting manufacturing, he replied, “Do something unique to advance the art, not the same old thing and cheaper.” Transition details regarding the company are forthcoming, but according to spokesperson Suzanne Carroll, it is the family's intention to continue to operate Sylvan R. Shemitz Designs Inc. as a private, independent manufacturer.