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Jingzhi He: Winner of the Himalayan Thermal Bath

+ Jingzhi He 🇨🇳

Winner of the Himalayan Thermal Bath

1) Could you briefly introduce yourself?

I’m currently a Year 4 student of Architecture in the University of Edinburgh and currently at a nagging intersection of work practice or furthering my education. I’m interested in considered, site-specific design that is sensitive to cultural context, whilst also implying a poetic, detail-oriented approach to the everyday experience. I am concerned with architecture as an intervention navigate overlapping and competing narratives while also contributing to the creation of new ones. In the HIMALAYAN THERMAL BATH competition, I re-examine the relationship between the people, nature and space in a highly contextualised situation.

2) What inspired you for the Himalayan Thermal Bath?

While reading the brief for the HIMALAYAN THERMAL BATH competition, the mention of the numerous hot spring pilgrims attracted to the site inspired me to design UP in the first place. People tend to think of pilgrimage as a kind of looking up, requiring an upward climb through thousands of hardships. Combining the natural characteristics of geothermal energy and the site’s proximity to the Gosaikunda Hot Springs, I inverted the whole process into an underwater journey, which I think is perhaps the best way for hot springs enthusiasts to become one with the sacred places in their hearts.

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

I hesitate a lot when dealing with the circulation from the beginning of the journey to the underwater destination. I have experimented with a number of complex circulations, trying to connect the different functional spaces in a roundabout way, to create the experience of wandering around the site, and to open up a sense of clarity when leading to the final space. But in the end I gave up and kept only one main axis connecting the various spaces. Because I want the underwater destination space to be spiritual, in my belief that the more simple and pure the materiality, the more timeless and sacred quality it gives to the architecture.

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

I am grateful for every experience I have had, as both past practice and education have shaped my designs today. My research and projects at the school have moulded my concerns about the humanities, the environment and architecture, inspiring me to fully connect the pilgrim experience with the environment in UP. This made me realise that architectural design is not only about fulfilling basic functions, but also about creating a positive and meaningful spatial experience, such as the place-making of ambience, a sensitive response to the environment, a varied treatment of light, and attention to the users’ psyche.

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

If it’s a passion, enjoy every experience of the competition. It is an opportunity to develop one’s own design ideals in the freest way possible, outside of a fixed project topic or a rigid design brief. Competitions provide a way to stay in touch with the global community and the architectural imagination. It is also a window to the outside world, whether it be professionals in the architecture or the general public, to show the potential of your design.

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

As I am going through the transition from student status to perhaps beginner architectural practitioner, I am aware that different positions will shift my understanding and, possibly, bias of the profession. Multiple internships have convinced me that every attempt at architectural design is like a journey to build a specific relationship. In the future, I hope to actively participate in these narratives and challenges, exploring how design can provide a platform for conversation amid complexities. Whether it is for future study or practice, I will continue to listen to diverse voices that will cultivate a more holistic and sensitive architectural mindset. Stay passionate, stay focused, stay sensitive, stay creative, stay alive.

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