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30UNDER30 Nguyen Le infuses her architecture with art


Australian Design Review (ADR) recently revealed the 30UNDER30 Architects and Innovators of the Built World for 2023/2024. To celebrate, we are getting to know this exciting multidisciplinary cohort, the passions that drive their work and what makes them tick creatively.

Nguyen Le, graduate of architecture at Richards Stanisich, is fueled by enthusiasm and a perpetual desire to explore and experiment within the realm of design. With an academic background in architecture and fine art, Nguyen’s journey has been an extraordinary exploration, pushing the boundaries of design. After several years as an architectural graduate, Nguyen consistently seeks to think radically outside the box. This radical thinking has seen her collaborate with artists on public art projects, and also travel to Greece, among many other countries, as she seeks to stimulate her curious mind, all the while bringing what she learns and experiences back to her architectural design philosophy. 

ADR: If you could work with any architect, designer, artist or other creative – living or dead – who would you work with and why?

NL: Cher – she’s bloody fabulous and isn’t afraid to be herself. 

ADR: What does sustainability mean for you?

NL: Sustainability, to me, means an evaluation of our history. I think it’s important to be conscious of the impact we have on our present, no matter how big or small the impact may be. This applies from concept to completion. I believe it’s worthwhile to investigate and interrogate the historical context, place and use of space, and seek to understand how it’s been sustained over its life. Like a builder — they spend a substantial amount of time investigating sites and existing conditions before they commence work. I think that early investment shows a deep respect for the history of a place and faith in its future. 

Ground Floor Public Bar, Jackson’s on George. Interior Design by Richards Stanisich. Artwork by Kaylene Whiskey, ‘Power, Love, Kungka Kunpu (Strong Women)’. In collaboration with Roslyn Oxley9 and Iwantja Arts. Photographer: Felix Forest.
ADR: Is there a particular project that you’ve worked on that has been the highlight of your career so far?

NL: A hospitality project in Sydney’s CBD presented a unique opportunity for me as the role saw me collaborating with both emerging and established artists to commission artworks that responded to both the site and the architecture. 

It was an incredibly valuable career lesson to witness artists observe, reflect and interpret the site in their own ways, all with completely different processes and outcomes. 

It was liberating to see them constantly test out ideas and invite open and honest discussions on political and social issues in contemporary society, and it prompted me to re-evaluate my own research and design methodologies. 

Years and years of architectural training have refined my design rigour, and now with my fine art studies, I aspire to embrace new ways of thinking, observing and reflecting. 

Stairwell, Jackson’s on George. Interior Design by Richards Stanisich. Artwork by Marty Baptist, ‘The Star We Live By’. Photographer: Felix Forest.
ADR: How did it feel to make it into Australian Design Review’s 30UNDER30?

NL: I was so stoked and happy to make my firm proud. When I first entered, I was apprehensive about whether I even belonged in the architects and innovator stream. I want to continually learn and expand into different fields, and as a result, my path has zigzagged between architecture, exhibition design and fine arts. But I am always driving it back to architecture. The judge’s recognition of my work and process so far has cemented that this is the right trajectory to foster innovation. I also can’t wait to meet the cohort and celebrate their successes.

ADR’s 30UNDER30 Architects and Innovators of the Built World stream is brought to you by major sponsor Neolith, alongside Miele, Interface and Tongue & Groove. The program is also supported by practice partners BVN, HDR INC, SJB, Richard Stanisich, Williams Burton Leopardi, and Billard Leece Partnership. To find out more about the final 30, including their places of work and discipline areas, head to the 30UNDER30 page.


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