Born and raised in Yunnan in south-west China, Ningnan developed an early interest in cultural diversity in architecture. After high school she took the decision to study architecture in Italy, attracted there by the country’s history and the beauty of the Italian language. She completed her master’s at the Politecnico di Milano with a project inspired by the phenomenon of the underground Yao Dong, a particular form of earth shelter dwelling that is common in the Loess Plateau of China's north.

‘It’s really old, but very smart. The earth that surrounds the indoor space serves as an effective insulator, keeping the inside of the structure warm in cold seasons and cool in the summer heat. Many such dwellings have been abandoned because of urbanization. I wanted to show how valuable these traditional structures are in today’s context and try to use the same building technique in modern architecture.’

An internship brought her to Copenhagen, where she discovered an interest in the combination of architecture and landscape, collaborating with landscape architects.

Since joining ZJA about a year ago, she has worked on the design of sports centres, bridges and an art installation. She seems to be in her element at ZJA, where she considers problems as a logical part of the creative process.