Member of the Month

We are pleased to introduce to our readers the IESNYC Member of the Month, chosen as part of a dedicated team of professionals that represent a cross-section of the lighting industry in New York City. We value their expertise, and thank them for volunteering their time and energy for the betterment of the section.

April 2021

Nelson Jenkins
Founder and Principal, Lumen Architecture, PLLC

Q: How did you first get started in the lighting industry?
Born and raised in Washington D.C., I spent many glorious hours visiting the museums and monuments. Many of them - the Capitol, East and West Wings of the National Gallery, the National Archives, Vietnam Memorial, and the National Cathedral, to name a few - were illuminated by George Sexton Associates (GSA), where I got my professional start after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with dual degrees in architecture and fine arts. At GSA, I was involved in architectural planning, comprehensive lighting systems, and art conservation, all employing advanced lighting techniques. I became a registered architect; but I knew I wanted to specialize in lighting. After working as a lighting designer for Anne Kale Associates, then Thompson and Sears when it merged with Brandston Partnership, I founded LumenArch in 2005. Since then, I have worked on a variety of award-winning projects worldwide – including Lumen Awards – the variety of which has enabled me to hone my expertise in the poetic use of light.

Q: How did you first get involved in the IESNYC?
I first joined the IES when working in DC and attended a few local events, meeting like-minded professionals from other local firms. When I moved to New York City I joined the IESNYC in addition to the DLFNY, both of which helped me expand my knowledge. It allowed me to hear and speak to leading figures in the industry, gleaning information from their years of practical experience.

Q: How do you see your role as a member of the IESNYC?
As one of the few members of color in the lighting industry, I bring a face and perspective of diversity not only to the IESNYC and to the design industry, but to my students as well. For the last 15 years, I have taught in the graduate lighting program at The Parsons New School in the School of Constructed Environments. I am particularly proud to have been a part of the IESNYC Student Lighting Competition (SLC) since its inception. As an adjunct professor, I have carefully cultivated and defended the merits of this competition in addition to advocating for its incorporation into course curriculums – and it is especially rewarding to see several of my students become winners of the SLC. The spirit of competition has created friendly rivalries among local design schools and has provided unique opportunities for students to meet and mix while gaining important exposure in the industry. I have also advocated for more cooperative communications and joint work within the design community among the branches of the lighting, interior design, architecture, and industrial design professions, and I continue to encourage the organization to reach out externally to help tackle social issues and build diversity.

Q: In your opinion, what are the best assets of the IESNYC?
When asked this question, many members say – “it’s education” and I agree. So, when I was asked a few months ago to be a panelist on an IESNYC webinar – “Players in the Game,” with other professionals in design and construction I gladly joined in and was glad to contribute to the collective knowledge, especially as an entrepreneur continuing in my father’s spirit as an attorney and civil rights activist along with my mother’s business acumen.

On a different level, I believe the poetics of illumination connect creative ideas to reality relying on the backbone of technology. The IESNYC has embraced engineering to achieve solutions to issues related to the lighted environment by translating that knowledge into actions. These contributions extend internationally and help support humanity. The transition of lighting from being a sidenote of architecture to being a valued contributor to the world of the built environment, and my being a part of that transitioning, has been an inspiration of which I am grateful to be a part of.