Humans of enCity: Ngoc Le – The artist of colourful graphics

Ngoc Le is an associate in Urban Design and Landscape Architecture in enCity’s Ho Chi Minh City office, and our resident expert in colourful graphics and thoughtful landscape designs. Read on to find out where her love of landscape began, and why she was predestined to join enCity!

Ngoc Le

enCity: You were one of the first to join enCity, so you have seen the team evolve over time. What has changed the most since you joined?

Ngoc Le: The core vision of enCity has not changed, and the company is still young, energetic and innovative, but now we have more people with various backgrounds. This diversity enriches the company and for me, this provides an active environment that I can learn and improve myself day by day. We also challenge ourselves with more diverse projects from urban design to planning and further to hi-tech aspects. As Dzung always says, we are not just designers, we provide urban solutions.

enCity: Why did you join enCity?

Ngoc Le: It was almost, can we say, predestined? I was not looking for a job at the time. After I graduated from university, I came back to Vietnam and joined ONG & ONG as a landscape designer. I started to learn about Dzung through his writing in my university years. He had a website that discussed cities in Vietnam, and through what I read, I found him really inspiring. Then, one of my friends mentioned that he was starting a new company and was looking for aspiring young people to help him build the company in the early days, so I applied. 

Teamwork at enCity

enCity: Where are you from originally, and where did you study?

Ngoc Le: I grew up in a beach city near Ho Chi Minh City named Vung Tau. This city is beautiful and is endowed with a considerably long coastline. It is shaped almost like an island, so we can see the sunrise on one side of Vung Tau and the sunset on the other. There is a range of striking mountains in this city, so you can go trekking to the top of a mountain and get views of the vast ocean. Vung Tau is also peaceful and clean with big trees. Since it is relatively close to Ho Chi Minh City, it is idyllic enough to have a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. When I went to Ho Chi Minh City to study at the University of Architecture Ho Chi Minh City, I was overwhelmed by the urban development here. After 2 years, I went on to study at KU Leuven in Belgium. I used to think that Vung Tau was the most beautiful city in Vietnam, but then I realized that there was a lot to discover! 

enCity: From Vung Tau, to Ho Chi Minh City, to Belgium, how have these places influenced your style or approach to design? 

Ngoc Le: Ho Chi Minh City taught me a lot about Vietnamese culture. I was particularly impressed by the vibrance of the city. I spent days talking to street vendors and people walking across the street to understand how they utilize the city to their benefit. That gave me a sense of Vietnamese culture and how people act within a space. On the other hand, Leuven is a very small university city which can be described as a real-life fairy tale village. In spring, every flower blossoms, and there is a lovely flower called a ‘snowdrop’ that only appears after the winter. Then there are differences in the landscape between the two cities. In Southern Vietnam, there are only two seasons which are dry and rainy respectively, so you cannot see a considerable change in the landscape, but in Belgium, there are four distinct seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. These seasons showed me enormous differences in terms of landscape. I learned to appreciate the uniqueness in the landscape of each place, so in a project I try to understand each new site and regard them as important in my design process.

enCity: If you had to choose a different career, what would do instead of design? 

Ngoc Le: That’s a tough question. I would still do something related to design. Maybe graphics, or something related to GIS or cartography, because I am very good at mathematics and I have a good sense of color. I feel that I understand the vibe that each color brings to the table.

enCity: That’s right, you are the best in the company with colors! It sounds like you are a very visual person.

Ngoc Le: Yes, I think I’m kind of a visual person, but I think color is personal taste.. In my case, my sense of colour has changed a lot between studying and practicing. When I was attending university, I chose light and neutral colors for my graphics. I think I was influenced by the European context, where they have cold weather with a grey sky – maybe European people are fond of these colors because the colors simply match well. Returning to Vietnam, at first I did not understand why Vietnamese people were really into bright colors. Then I realized that culture, and perhaps the weather in Vietnam with the clear blue sky and bright sunshine, gives people a different color taste that is oriented towards a stronger and more energetic color palette. I started to figure out how to combine bright colors together but not make them too saturated – that balance is one of the difficult parts and the charming aspect of using colors. It makes the drawings lively and vibrant.

Perspective of Nha Trang Project by Ngoc Le

enCity: Which project that stands out for you at enCity?

Ngoc Le: I recently worked on the Nha Trang project and it stands out for me. It was the first project I took the lead on and it is an immensely interesting project. The site is 2000ha, and the client has a great vision for the project. He wants to create an innovation hub that consists of a film studio, a theme park, and more to build a strong local economy. He is also a producer of agarwood, which is a special type of wood. Due to a self-defense mechanism, this wood produces a scented resin when the tree is damaged. It is very expensive and used in various religions. According to this client, Vietnam has the best agarwood in the world, and Nha Trang region has the best agarwood in Vietnam. Part of the project is focused on planting an agarwood forest to produce the resin, and establishing a temple and educational center for people to learn more about agarwood. I found this project fascinating because I gained new insights beyond just working knowledge.

Thank you Ngoc Le!