moments in architecture: iwan baan's first major retrospective launching at VITRA

moments in architecture: iwan baan's first major retrospective launching at VITRA

iwan baan: moments in architecture at vitra design museum 

 

From October 21, 2023 to March 3, 2024, the VITRA Design Museum in Germany is launching the first major retrospective of Iwan Baan’s globally renowned oeuvre. The exhibition titled ‘Iwan Baan: Moments in Architecture’ reflects the photographer’s broad scope by drawing up a panorama of global architecture in the early twenty-first century, tracing its urban and social contexts and the people who use it. A leading figure of architectural photography today, Baan’s images document the growth of global megacities, explore traditional and informal housing structures, and portray buildings by prominent contemporary architects, including Rem Koolhaas, Herzog & de Meuron, Kazuyo Sejima, and Tatiana Bilbao.

moments in architecture: iwan baan's first major retrospective launching at VITRA
Baku, Azerbaijan (2011) | image © Iwan Baan

 

 

how architecture comes alive through iwan baan’s lens 

 

‘Moments in Architecture’ at VITRA Design Museum responds to the rise of digital media over the past thirty years, which has fundamentally changed the world of photography and architecture. Images of new buildings become available in real-time, promoting the rise of architects, influencing design processes, and making architecture a visual commodity. No other photographer has shaped these developments as emphatically as Iwan Baan (see more here), taking quick, precise, and crisp photographs that can be profoundly human and poetic. ‘He knows how to make a building look great, but he also captures the moments when architecture comes alive, when plans are made, when workers rest, when people move in or out. Many iconic images of the past two decades were shot by Baan, from the ‘official’ portraits of architectural landmarks to photos of Manhattan in the dark after Hurricane Sandy in 2012,’ writes the museum. 

moments in architecture: iwan baan's first major retrospective launching at VITRA
National Taichung Theatre, Taiwan, by Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects (2016) | image © Iwan Baan

 

 

moments in architecture explores the early 2000s onward

 

The exhibition at VITRA features examples from all areas of Iwan Baan’s work since the early 2000s. It includes film footage and rarely published photographs of traditional and informal architecture worldwide – from the round Yaodong villages of China to the rock-hewn churches of Ethiopia, from self-built multi-story dwellings in Cairo to the Torre David in Caracas. ‘What’s important is the story, which is very intuitive and fluid. I am not so interested in the timeless architectural image as much as the specific moment in time, the place, and the people there – all the unexpected, unplanned moments in and around the space, how people interact with that space, and the stories that are unfolding there,’ shares Iwan Baan. 

moments in architecture: iwan baan's first major retrospective launching at VITRA
Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, Germany, by Herzog & de Meuron (2017) | image © Iwan Baan

 

 

spotlighting the chinese urbanscape 

 

Baan’s focus on architecture emerged after he crossed paths with Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas in 2004. The first section of the retrospective presents a series of images documenting the construction of the CCTV Headquarters by Koolhaas’s architectural firm OMA (2002–2012) and the Olympic Stadium by Herzog & de Meuron (2003–2008), both in Beijing. Baan’s pictures show both the glossy facades and the workers who raise the buildings from the ground up, documenting their work and daily lives, often under challenging conditions. Including many unpublished works, this section reveals the beginnings of the photographer’s fascination with architecture as a process and as a social force – and as a manifestation of China’s rise to a global superpower. This is also illustrated by other photo series in this section, which document the country’s real-estate boom in the early 2000s as well as more traditional Chinese buildings.

moments in architecture: iwan baan's first major retrospective launching at VITRA
National Museum of Qatar, Doha by Ateliers Jean Nouvel (2019) | image © Iwan Baan / VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2023

 

 

capturing architectural icons across the globe 

 

The second section of the exhibition gives an overview of this body of work, ranging from Zaha Hadid‘s MAXXI Museum in Rome to SANAA‘s Rolex Learning Center in Lausanne, from Toyo Ito’s National Taichung Theatre in Taiwan to Balkrishna Doshi’s Ahmedabad projects. Baan has developed a constantly growing network since his first collaboration with Rem Koolhaas, including many of today’s foremost architects. For Herzog & de Meuron, Francis Kéré, Sou Fujimoto, Tatiana Bilbao, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, SANAA, Toyo Ito, and many others, he is the photographer of choice when it comes to documenting their projects.

 

To capture the character and the context of a building, he combines aerial views taken by helicopter with a series of different perspectives ranging from panorama shots to detailed close-ups. ‘His working relationship with the architects is such that they often let him rely on his intuition to choose the right motifs and angles for the perfect shot. He embraces the moment, not waiting for supposedly ideal weather or light, welcomes reality’s incursions, and almost incidentally creates shots that have the visual power to shape a building’s public image,’ continues the museum. 

moments in architecture: iwan baan's first major retrospective launching at VITRA
Beinecke Library New Haven, USA, by SOM (2017) | image © Iwan Baan

 

 

from urban growth to modernist heritage & local communities 

 

The exhibition equally spotlights Baan as a global nomad who spends much of his working life traveling the world. He explores booming megacities on all continents and documents real-estate booms or crashes, increasing density, urban evolution, and individual life stories. Be it in Tokyo, Lagos, São Paulo, or Hongkong, he chronicles the urban landscape, looking at idiosyncrasies as well as recurring themes that range from urban growth to the modernist heritage, from globalization to local communities, approaching iconic modernist cities like Brasília or Chandigarh with the same love for detail as the International Fair of Dakar designed in 1975 by Jean-François Lamoureux and Jean-Louis Marin or the urban sprawl of Los Angeles.

 

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International Fair of Dakar, Senegal, by Jean-Francois Lamoureux, Jean-Louis Marin, Fernand Bonamy (2013)  image © Iwan Baan

 

On many of his commissioned travels around the globe, Iwan Baan also takes photographs of informal or traditional buildings. Whether in Japan, Burkina Faso, Haiti, or India, he looks at housing practices that have existed for centuries, that adapt to local conditions, and that often show similarities across cultures and continents. In one of the resulting projects, the photographer documents what is presumably the world’s largest temporary city: a camp of tents set up for the duration of the Kumbh Mela festival, which is held every twelve years in Prayagraj, India, and attracts an estimated fifty to eighty million pilgrims.

 

A project in Caracas, Venezuela, is dedicated to an unfinished financial center called the Torre David that squatters have converted into an informal housing complex. Baan’s photo series, which earned him the Golden Lion of the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2012 with Urban Think Tank (Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner) and Justin McGuirk, is a touching social study that shows how the raw concrete structure is appropriated by its inhabitants with homes, shops, and community spaces.

moments in architecture: iwan baan's first major retrospective launching at VITRA
Tiébélé, Burkina Faso (2021) | image © Iwan Baan

 

 

After its presentation at the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, ‘Iwan Baan: Moments in Architecture’ will travel to more international venues. The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive catalog with approximately 600 photographs covering two decades of Iwan Baan’s work. Illustrations and texts are by Beatrice Galilee, Marvin Heiferman, Hans Ibelings, Mea Hoffmann, and Iwan Baan; designed by Haller Brun.

moments in architecture: iwan baan's first major retrospective launching at VITRA
Biete Ghiorgis, Rock-Hewn church, Lalibela, Ethiopia (2012) | image © Iwan Baan

moments in architecture: iwan baan's first major retrospective launching at VITRA
Mikimoto Ginza 2, Tokyo, Japan, by Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects (2006) | image © Iwan Baan

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Teshima Art Museum, Tonosho, Japan, by Ryue Nishizawa (2010) | image © Iwan Baan

moments in architecture: iwan baan's first major retrospective launching at VITRA
House H, Tokyo, Japan, by Sou Fujimoto Architects (2009) | image © Iwan Baan

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CCTV Headquarters Beijing, China, by OMA (2011) | image © Iwan Baan

 

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House NA, Tokyo, Japan, by Sou Fujimoto Architects (2011) | image © Iwan Baan
House NA, Tokyo, Japan, by Sou Fujimoto Architects (2011) | image © Iwan Baan
Rolex Learning Center at the École Polytechnique Fédérale, Lausanne, Switzerland, by SANAA (2010) | image © Iwan Baan
Rolex Learning Center at the École Polytechnique Fédérale, Lausanne, Switzerland, by SANAA (2010) | image © Iwan Baan
Las Vegas, USA, (2022) | image © Iwan Baan
Las Vegas, USA, (2022) | image © Iwan Baan
construction of the CCTV Headquarters, Beijing, China, by OMA (2007) | image © Iwan Baan
construction of the CCTV Headquarters, Beijing, China, by OMA (2007) | image © Iwan Baan
Los Angeles, USA (2010) | image © Iwan Baan
Los Angeles, USA (2010) | image © Iwan Baan
Gando Secondary School (2021), Burkina Faso, by Kéré Architecture | image © Iwan Baan
Gando Secondary School (2021), Burkina Faso, by Kéré Architecture | image © Iwan Baan
Torre de David, Caracas, Venezuela (2011) | image © Iwan Baan
Torre de David, Caracas, Venezuela (2011) | image © Iwan Baan
M+ Museum, Hong Kong, China, by Herzog & de Meuron (2022) | image © Iwan Baan
M+ Museum, Hong Kong, China, by Herzog & de Meuron (2022) | image © Iwan Baan
New York after Hurricane Sandy, USA (2012) | image © Iwan Baan
New York after Hurricane Sandy, USA (2012) | image © Iwan Baan
construction of the National Stadium, Beijing, China, by Herzog & de Meuron (2007) | image © Iwan Baan
construction of the National Stadium, Beijing, China, by Herzog & de Meuron (2007) | image © Iwan Baan
National Stadium, Beijing, China, by Herzog & de Meuron (2008) | image © Iwan Baan
National Stadium, Beijing, China, by Herzog & de Meuron (2008) | image © Iwan Baan
Kumbh Mela Festival, Prayagraj, India (2013) | image © Iwan Baan
Kumbh Mela Festival, Prayagraj, India (2013) | image © Iwan Baan

exhibition info:

 

name: Iwan Baan: Moments in Architecture 

location: VITRA Campus, Weil am Rhein, Germany 

concept: Mea Hoffmann, Iwan Baan | @iwanbaan

exhibition design: Vitra Design Museum@vitradesignmuseum

running date: October, 21, 2023 – March, 3, 2024 

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