We’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to one of our Honorable mention winner for our "Portable Reading Rooms / Edition #2" competition – Jessica Zhan, Bella Fane, Lucas Engen Gjessing and Wenjing Huang from United Kingdom!

Honorable mention winners from United Kingdom

We are all students at the University of Edinburgh and have met through design courses in studio and collaborative coursework. While all studying together, we all have different interests and backgrounds which all brought different assets to the competition entry.

Jessica Zhan

Currently studying 3rd year of the BA architecture program at the University of Edinburgh. As someone who is still relatively new to the field of architecture, I am constantly trying to explore different aspects and fields within architecture. I’m especially interested in architecture’s nuanced interaction with people and society, and I aspire to be a professional builder of worlds.

Bella Fane

Currently studying 3rd year of the BA architecture program at the University of Edinburgh. As an aspiring architect I am interested in sustainable rehabilitation building projects and learning new and creative building techniques, to enhance my own architectural skills. Many projects that I have worked on focus around the use of Mass Timber in construction and design in the UK. I hope to develop this practice in my future work.  I have a passion for drawing through hand and film creation, and the paths it takes me on to help me understand my designs and ideas.

Lucas E. Gjessing 

Currently studying 3rd year of the BA architecture program at the University of Edinburgh. I previously worked as a Carpenter and completed my apprenticeship in Norway in spring 2021. In addition to studying, I run a sole proprietorship called Gjessing Tømrerstreker, delivering carpentry services such as renovation and smaller builds in addition to plans, sections, and detail drawings. In architectural studies and in practice as a carpenter, I am interested in materials, material details/qualities and craftmanship.

Wenjing Huang

Currently in 3rd year of BA Architecture program at the University of Edinburgh, I aim to explore various architectural issues through participating in competitions and workshops. Whether it's the cutting-edge technologies or practical problem-solving in architecture, I wish to broaden my understanding of architecture beyond its confines by delving into different art fields. By immersing myself in travel experiences and appreciating architecture, I seek to grasp the historical, cultural, religious, and economic influences that shape modern architects in diverse contexts.

Brief information about the projects that you/your company have been involved with. For instance, what scale have you focused on/preferred, any significant projects where the company/ individuals have been involved?

The four of us have during our first two years at the University of Edinburgh mostly focused on the urban scale with briefs requesting community centres, schools, and residential complexes. Time has been given to understand a buildings material and public context, as well as exploring ways to challenge both the brief and our initial response to the brief. Alongside, and complementing, the design projects, are architectural history and technology and environment courses that have helped bring depth and solidity to our design proposals. The iterative process of moving between the physical and the digital, loose sketching and detailed drafting has been the red line going through our university experience and was the foundation for our approach to the portable reading room.

What does architecture mean to you and what is the role of an architect in your society?

To us, Architecture is about facilitating everyday life and creating spatial environments that improve our experiences. Whether that being assisting in solving logistical and spatial challenges, simply providing a visually and physically pleasing and stimulating space it feels nice to be or a combination of the two. In addition to this, architecture is about sustainability and problem solving – finding ways to create and maintain a high standard of living without using excessive amounts of resources. Therefore, an architect serves as a planner, solver, designer, and communicator for the community, improving their living conditions and connecting local residents through design. We are proud to have been trained from a young age on sustainable strategies and net-zero design. We have the responsibility to consider the environmental, historical, and socioeconomic impacts buildings bring, while simultaneously prioritizing the human experience within these spaces. We are mediators of the macro and the micro, the natural and the artificial, the past and the future, the world and the self.

Why do you participate in architecture competitions?

Participating in competitions as a student provides an opportunity to experience a different side of iterative and creative process, where you to a much larger degree stand on your own and need to organize and push yourselves without guidelines. It also gives you the opportunity to prioritize drawings, ideas, and technical skills that you want to develop, at the pace you want to do it. Competitions help you develop your interests, ability to collaborate, seek out challenges, and independence, as well as expand your horizons.

More importantly, competitions give the opportunity for you to work closely with teammates you admire, allowing you to learn from them as well as how to collaborate with them. As a bonus, competition work will be useful for enriching academic portfolios and future job applications.

What advice would you give to individuals who struggle to decide whether it would be beneficial for them to participate in architecture competitions?

This was our first competition entry and first time working together as a team, but by engaging with the brief and making it our own we found ourselves exited and dedicated to the design. No matter the outcome of the competition, the process will help you develop as a designer/architect. You will gain experience and learn more about yourself, your interest, and your skillset. Participating in architecture competition forces you to critically assess your own and your colleagues work as well as manage you and your teams time and workload. For anyone interested in architecture competitions, we would recommend giving it a go, and to enjoy and value the process and your design as well as using it as an opportunity to grow, learn and expand your horizons!

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