Your Interview Menekse Seyma Kaya
Introduce yourself (name, company, position, country) and tell us how you got into lighting design (including education/qualifications).
I am Menekse Seyma Kaya, the founder of Studio 400nm, an architectural lighting design practice, based in Dublin, Ireland. I studied Interior Architecture and Environmental Design for my bachelor. During and after my study, I noticed that there was not enough care given for both daylight or artificial lighting in the construction industry around me. All architectural projects were visualised in a broad lit scene without any design consideration. That made me realise how the lighting was neglected in architectural education and practice, albeit it is the most important actor for revealing the architecture, vital to perceiving the world and main clue for regulating our bodies. In pursuit of lighting, I have continued my education with the master of Architectural Lighting Design in Wismar, Germany. Once I was immersed in the magical world of lighting, I was amazed, and since then, I chase light in any kind and form.
I consider myself lucky to have had the chances to experience all facets of lighting; manufacturing, design, engineering and education over the past ten years.
Tell us about your work – is there a specific type of project you like to work on or an area you specialise in and why?
I worked on numerous projects in various diversity and scale such as healthcare, education, transportation, workplace, retail, residential, religious, science and tech, masterplans, sports, art and culture, temporary & permanent light installations, product design.
No matter the scale or type, I like the projects better where I can challenge my capabilities to make a meaningful contribution.
Having said that, I am always super excited to start a new project with an empty canvas in front of me.
What project are you most proud of and why?
A particular one came to my mind amongst others, albeit it might sound dull compared to a typical architectural lighting project.
I was the lead for optimising global lighting standards for one of the pioneers, a giant tech company, in collaboration with multiple cross-functional and cross-regional design and engineering teams. I am proud of the excellent result that would lead to having a substantial positive impact globally for the environment, economy, and space quality thanks to the incredible teamwork that everyone put their expertise selflessly and strived for the best.
What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome in your career?
There was a period of my life that I was working on circa ten projects simultaneously and the pressing deadlines at the same time. I didn’t feel that burnout was coming as I was also genuinely enjoying the progress and focused on the results. After a while, my mind was constantly occupied with project-related worries, I struggled to sleep, and my energy drained significantly. Yoga and mindfulness practices helped me to recover from that period, and of course, reducing the burden on my shoulders.
How does light inspire you?
Makes me feel mindful. As a solar-powered person, lighting inspires me to create in every aspect of art, craft and design; from photography to illustration, sewing to baking. Just looking at a beautiful lighting scene lifts my mood, motivates and even makes me smile intuitively.
What is your message for other Women In Lighting?
There IS such a thing called Work-Life Balance. We tend to forget it quickly, especially when we enjoy the process and get excited about the progress. Don’t wait until the burnout hits to look after yourself both mentally and physically.
Menekse Seyma Kaya
Designer, Educator, Management, Outreach
“Don’t wait until the burnout hits to look after yourself both mentally and physically.”