Your Interview Nikki Escalona-Tayag


Nikki Escalona-Tayag

Designer, Architect, Educator
Introduce yourself (name, company, position, country) and tell us how you got into lighting design (including education/qualifications).

I am Nikki Escalona-Tayag, I am the Design Principal at 33rd & 3rd Architectural Lighting Design. I head a boutique firm in Manila, Philippines specializing in design and consultancy. I also teach Architecture students at Enderun Colleges.

I started my career as an Architectural Designer and Project Manager in 2008. I was working on a variety of residential, commercial, institutional and hospitality projects, only to realize how little I knew about lighting and how to maximize light in my creative process.

I began my journey by enrolling at Parsons, The New School for Design, and completed my MFA in Lighting Design in 2013. Since then, I immersed myself in lighting design for the built environment when I returned to my home country to start my practice. Lighting Design was still so “new” then, and it is still is considered a very niche specialty in the Philippines. But with a lot optimism, hard work and perseverance, I hope to bring better lighting solutions to more and more people.

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?

My work, over the years, has been mix of high-end residential design, commercial/retail and office design, institutional and civic design. While I love working on interior and exterior projects, I have also found a liking to landscape lighting design.

At the beginning, I found it to be very challenging; landscapes change so much from the onset of the design to when luminaires are about to be installed. I’ve dealt with many complexities including gardens that have become too lush, or gardens that didn’t thrive at all. But in spite the difficulties, landscape lighting interested me in a way I never imagined.

Currently, most projects I am working on have a landscape lighting aspect to it; this ranges from hardscapes and softscapes, trails and tracks, tree and path lighting, and pool and water feature lighting. It might not be something that I explicitly specialize in now, but it is definitely an aspect of lighting that I enjoy exploring and hope to do more of in the future. In the Philippines, a tropical country with a very diverse flora and fauna, landscape lighting plays a vital role in the aesthetics and sensorial experience in a project. I hope to immerse my design skills in this area of design.

What project are you most proud of and why?

Though I am proud of all my projects, regardless of scope and typology, I am most proud of the New Senate Building because it is a landmark building that will represent my country. The design concept in itself is something to be proud of as it is inspired by the history, culture and identity of the Filipino.

I am proud of this project because it encompasses a myriad of things; it is a mixed use building with 4 towers, and has many different functions and applications. Its complexities offer many design challenges that only push me to be come a better designer.

What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome in your career?

Being a young woman in a male-dominated field has always been a challenge. It’s not limited to the lighting design industry per se, but being in the construction industry as a whole can be daunting. Eyes are always on you, checking to see if you will make a mistake. I cannot help but feel intimidated at times. However, through the years, I have learned to deal with it by sticking to my instincts and showing others my skills and strengths, regardless of my age and gender, that I am able to add value to projects.

Another challenge I have encountered is the perception of others that lighting design can be introduced at the end of the project when in fact, it should be in the onset of a project.

Often times lighting designers are brought in too late and are expected to deliver perfectly even after all is said and done. This just shows that the industry has much to learn about our roles as lighting designers. When this happens, I find myself needing to educate clients and colleagues that lighting is not a mere afterthought, but a vital part of the schematic process.

How does light inspire you?

Light inspires me to think about one’s sensorial experience in a space. It allows me to view design wholistically; the architecture, the interior design – how do these elements affect the light and vice versa? More importantly, light inspires me to explore design more creatively because it’s a powerful design tool that is often underestimated.

In my practice, I have made it my mission to help educate colleagues, end-users, builders and the like about light and its endless possibilities in design in hopes that this will inspire them, too.

What is your message for other Women In Lighting?

I believe we should all find ways to inspire each other. Though the industry is wide and comprises of several different branches, regardless of which branch you belong to, we find ourselves somehow intertwined and it’s only right that we support each other.

To other women in this industry: Be confident and persevere in your mission to be purveyors of good design. There are so many possibilities in lighting; let us all strive to be full spectrum designers.

Lives in:
Manila, Philippines
Born in:
Manila, Philippines
BS Architecture (UST, Manila, Philippines), MFA Lighting Design (Parsons The New School of Design, NY, USA)
Started working with light in:
Offices worked at:
Tirschwell & Co. Inc., CBBLD (New York), WE Design (Manila)
Now works at:
33rd & 3rd Architectural Lighting Design
As well as being:
Adjunct Faculty at Enderun Colleges (Manila)
Professional membership:
United Architects of the Philippines (UAP)
Traveling with my husband and kids, experimenting in the kitchen and singing

“Be confident and persevere in your mission to be purveyors of good design. There are so many possibilities in lighting; let us all strive to be full spectrum designers.”

Selected portfolio:

New Senate Building, Manila, Philippines (Architects Aecom & Aidea Inc.)New Senate Building, Manila, Philippines (Architects Aecom & Aidea Inc.)Project OPK, Manila. Local Architect: Aidea Inc.C Residence Manila, PhilippinesS Residence, Manila Architect: MET Architectural DesignU Office, Manila, Philippines

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