Keeping it simple and local - Ng Sek San

Ng Sek San has been described as a non-conformist, a maverick who believes in simple, affordable and local solutions. The Principal of Seksan Design: Landscape Architecture & Planning in Malaysia, his projects are driven by a belief in making works that reflect an egalitarian lifestyle.

Trained in New Zealand, Ng Sek San’s first five years as a landscape architect were with Boffa Miskell in Christchurch. All his projects are now concentrated in Kuala Lumpur as he has not taken on any commercial overseas commissions in the last eight years.

Ng Sek San will be speaking on practice disruption at the 2019 NZILA Firth Conference in Christchurch in November. His visit is sponsored by NZILA.

Landscape Architecture Aotearoa put some questions to him ahead of his visit.

Ng Sek San

Ng Sek San

LAA: You began your landscape architecture career in New Zealand, why did you leave?

NSS: I was born in Ipoh, Malaysia. I was in New Zealand from ages 17-30 and had my most formative years there. I left in 1990 to see the world and return to my family and also to operate in Asia.

LAA: How has being based in Malaysia influenced your work?

NSS: Malaysia is less regulated and we can do more experimental work easier and faster. Malaysia allows us to be more crazy. Malaysia also has mild consistent weather that allows me to do very transparent and open design and blurring the boundaries of garden and buildings. Malaysia is less but also more.

LAA: Seksan Design has been described as a vision and value based firm - what does that mean?

NSS: I have never described my firm with those words so I really don’t know what that means. However Seksan Design is about simplifying and uncluttering ideas so that they have some clarity. 

Seksan Design is also about undesigning and reducing design to an egalitarian form so that it can be useful to more people. 

We champion design that places more value on labour rather than material and local rather than imports.

LAA: What's your philosophy behind your work?

NSS: Our core philosophy I guess is about appreciating imperfections. It’s about retraining our eyes to work in a thinking fashion in order to see beauty in the less obvious and to develop an aesthetics of the third world that is more uniquely grounded in Asia.

It is about putting humanity back in cold hard design. Translated in concrete terms it means building better and cheaper so that more can afford good design and hopefully our cities become a better and more authentic place to live.