William Ming Cheong Lam, better known as Bill Lam, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1924. Bill entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology just before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and his studies were interrupted by service in the USAAF, where he served as a B-25 bomber pilot with the 13th Air Force in the Southwest Paciﬁc campaign. After returning to MIT, Bill graduated with a degree in Architecture in 1949.
After finishing his studies at MIT (inspired by the example of visiting professors Alvar Aalto and Charles Eames), Bill founded Lam Workshop to explore his ideas for the production of quality and economical electric lamps and furniture designs. Almost from the beginning, Lam Workshop products were sold nearly everywhere that carried contemporary furniture. In all of his designs, function and the manufacturing process drove form. Light diffusers for table lamps made from ﬁberglass reinforced plastic were among the ﬁrst consumer products, shown alongside Eames chairs in advertising. Other products, such as globe diffusers for pendant light fixtures, pioneered the use of vacuum formed thermoplastics. With manufacturing capacity outstripping the design store market, some Lam Workshop products were marketed by Lightolier.
Lam Lighting Systems Inc 1951
Bill saw a critical need in the market for commercial-grade lighting products that would address the challenges of modern architectural design. The business name was changed to Lam Lighting Systems Inc (also known as Lam Inc), and the headquarters and production facility was moved to Wakefield, MA. With a focus on integrated lighting solutions to serve the architectural community, Lam Lighting produced a line of ‘classic’ modern fixtures that became essential architectural ‘tools’ for decades. Such fixtures included a series of extruded aluminum indirect fluorescents, a line of wall-mounted valence fixtures with tunable direct and indirect components, and the original “hockey puck” metal halide uplight, which was widely used in schools, libraries, universities, and recreational facilities.
William Lam Associates 1961
DC Metro, 1967
After several years as a successful fixture manufacturer, Bill retired from Lam Lighting Systems Inc and returned to his passion for architectural design. He founded William Lam Associates in 1961, a lighting design consulting firm in Cambridge, MA, with a focus on the integration of lighting with architecture and urban design. Bill worked with many architects across the US and throughout the world, developing innovative lighting solutions and integrated systems approaches for complex building designs. Bill taught lighting design at Harvard, authored two books on lighting design, and was a great mentor and inspiration for several generations of architects and lighting designers.
Lam Partners Inc 1990
Model Testing: Bilbao Guggenheim, 1995
With extensive experience at William Lam Associates as project managers, Robert Osten and Paul Zaferiou became partners with Bill in 1990. The name of the firm was changed to Lam Partners Inc to acknowledge this transition, and the office was moved to its current location in a renovated warehouse space, north of Harvard Square, Cambridge. Bill retired from Lam Partners Inc in 1995, maintaining a small consulting business in Cambridge to pursue projects of special interest.
From 1995 to the present day, the firm has experienced considerable growth, working on increasingly complex projects and expanding our design and technical capabilities, In 2006, Lam Partners renovated its office, and the firm’s logo and brand was updated to its current format in 2007. Keith Yancey was promoted to Principal in 2005, followed by Glenn Heinmiller in 2008.
Bill Lam passed away in 2012. Fittingly, a memorial service was held at Eric Saarinen’s MIT Chapel, one of Bill’s favorite spaces in Cambridge. The service was attended by family, colleagues, and friends from around the world. Bill’s legacy lives on in all of those who worked with him, and who were inspired by his teaching and dedication to the profession of lighting. For more about Bill, please refer to his obituaries in the Boston Globe and in Architectural Lighting.
Lam Holiday party, 2012.
Lam Labs was founded in 2014 as a division of Lam Partners, to pursue research opportunities and explore innovative lighting ideas beyond the bounds of conventional project structures. The firm is dedicated to carrying forward our rich history of design excellence, with a very talented and energetic staff of designers, using the latest design tools and lighting technology in new and exciting ways. Lam Partners is committed to the principles of integrated design, teaching, promoting energy efficiency and sustainability, and building rewarding, collaborative and lasting relationships within the design community.
A New Public Face
With this new website, Lam Partners seeks to show off our creativity, our collaborative spirit, our irreverent and goofy sides as well as our technical capabilities. Get to know the team, peruse our spheres of expertise, check out our completed projects, find useful info in our tools section, and follow our blog. We’re very excited about it and welcome your feedback in the comments section below!