Sebastian Narvaez: HM of the Himalayan Thermal Bath

+ Sebastian Narvaez 🇨🇭

Honourable Mention of the Himalayan Thermal Bath


1) Could you briefly introduce yourself?

As the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism (FAU) at UTE University, he has devoted his career to enhancing the field of architecture through both education and research. His focus on the appropriation of space, residual spaces, and the criteria of architectural space has significantly contributed to the understanding of human interactions within the built environment.

As a research professor, he has authored several books and scientific articles that delve into these themes. His commitment to academic excellence is further demonstrated by his pursuit of a Ph.D. at the University of Valencia, where he continues to explore the complexities of architectural space.

With over 15 years of experience in the design and development of architectural projects, he has always prioritized the human aspect of architecture, ensuring that his designs facilitate meaningful interactions and experiences. This human-centered approach has been a guiding principle in his work, influencing both his teaching and research.

In recent years, he has also participated in architectural and graphic design competitions, where his innovative designs have been recognized with several honors and medals. These accolades reflect not only his passion for architecture but also his commitment to pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the field.

2) What inspired you for the Himalayan Thermal Baths?

In the realm of architectural poetry, where concrete and landscape converge, there lies a profound narrative of space and place. This is a juxtaposition and unity, a dialogue between the raw power of nature and the deliberate grace of human design. The project reveals a complex structure, a composition where the stark, crisp lines of liminal architecture are set against the soft, undulating forms of a snow-clad landscape.

The journey begins with ‘Approximation,’ where one is ushered through towering concrete walls, a passage that narrows the focus to the path ahead, heightening the senses and anticipation. This is a prelude, a tactile whisper of what is to come. As the narrative unfolds to the ‘In-Between,’ this is an interstitial space, a pause where the stark contrast of the built environment and the organic form of the mountains coalesce, offering a moment of reflection.

Then comes the ‘Climax,’ where architecture does not impose but rather bows to its majestic backdrop, inviting the landscape in through a framed vista. The water, still and reflective, becomes one with the architecture, blurring the boundaries between the man-made and the natural. It is here, in this contemplative space, that one finds serenity, an emotional resonance with the surroundings.

The entire ensemble is a choreography of experiences, a narrative that speaks to the poetics of space. The built forms do not compete with the landscape but rather complement it, creating a harmonious relationship that speaks to the intrinsic human desire for connection with nature. This is a place where architecture becomes a vessel for experience, where every angle and plane is carefully considered to enhance the poetic dialogue between human existence and the vastness of the natural world.

3) Can you describe any particular challenges you faced during the design process and how
you overcame them?

In the realm of architectural design, time is often perceived as an adversary — a relentless force that constrains creativity and rushes decision-making. However, within the context of creating a space like the one depicted, time’s scarcity was transformed into an asset, compelling a more efficient and focused creative process.

The efficiency arose from a distilled conceptualization phase, where understanding the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ behind the project became the cornerstone of the entire endeavor. By homing in on the essence of the project — the poetic interplay between the built environment and the natural landscape — each decision was imbued with purpose and intention.

This process involved rapid iterations of sketches, each a rapid-fire response to the preceding thought, gradually refining the concept into its purest form. The sketches acted not merely as visual representations but as a dialogue with time, each line and shade a word in the conversation. This was not a race against the clock but rather a strategic dance with it, where time’s pressure was channeled into productive bursts of insight and innovation.

In this brisk conceptual phase, superfluous ideas were quickly discarded, leaving only the strongest, most resonant concepts to flourish. This approach to design — thoughtful yet unhesitating — ensured that every moment spent in the creative process was one of quality over quantity.

The result was a design that appears timeless, as if it emerged naturally from the landscape, yet behind it lies a process acutely aware of time’s value. In this way, the problem of limited time was not just managed; it was harnessed as a vital component of the creative journey, ensuring that the final design was not a product of haste but of concentrated, purposeful creativity.

4) How do you think your educational background or professional experiences influenced your winning design?

The fusion of a rich background in non-scientific research with a disciplined practice of sketching ideas was instrumental in the conception of this architectural proposal. Immersion in a diverse spectrum of literature informed a design philosophy that transcends the functional to embrace a narrative-driven approach, while the habitual sketching translated complex theoretical concepts into tangible forms. This synthesis of reading and visual exploration allowed for a design process that was at once intuitive and deliberate, channeling a deep understanding of human experience and spatial narrative into the creation of a space that dialogues seamlessly with its natural surroundings.

5) What advice would you give to students or young professionals looking to excel in architecture competitions?

For students and aspiring architects, the essence of invaluable advice lies in the rigorous application of critical thinking and the strategic utilization of accumulated knowledge. Engage with critical thinking to challenge conventions and foster innovation, while grounding your designs in the rich context of architectural history and theory. This dual approach will enable you to create not only structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing environments but also spaces that resonate with cultural significance and forward-thinking design principles. Thus, by intertwining critical analysis with historical insight, you’ll be well-equipped to contribute meaningfully to the architectural tapestry.

6) What are your future aspirations in the field of architecture?

Pritzker Prize


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