It’s safe to say that RECORD contributing photographer Iwan Baan has seen his share of the world. His work is widely published and ranges from architectural commissions to documenting the growth of global megacities and their myriad housing structures and social contexts, as well as vernacular architecture in rural communities. On view through March 3, 2024, at the Vitra Design Museum, Iwan Baan: Moments in Architecture is the photographer’s first major retrospective, and catalogues this wide-ranging canon. In May, Baan offered a preview of sorts of the exhibition during a talk at 1014, a cultural event space on the Upper East of Manhattan as part of New York Design Week.
Heatherwick Studio's UK Pavilion at Shanghai Expo, China (2010). Photo © Iwan Baan
The Vitra Design Museum, founded in 1989, is located in the German town of Weil am Rhein, just a few miles northeast of Basel, Switzerland. It is partially bankrolled by Swiss furniture company Vitra, and the private museum—a major attraction at the wider Vitra campus—has amassed one of the world’s largest collections of modern furniture, along with curating several architecture-focused exhibitions over the years.
The OMA-designed CCTV Headquarters under construction in Beijing (2011). Photo © OMA, Iwan Baan
In conversation with RECORD, Baan notes that the Frank Gehry-designed museum—the architect’s first completed European project—is an ideal setting for the show due to its segmented volumes and many skylights—the latter had been closed off for years. “I suggested to the curatorial team that they open the gallery skylights as my work is very much about natural light; the way architects typically imagine their spaces. It is also rewarding to bring the building back to how it was envisioned 30 years ago.”
Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre, Baku, Azerbaijan (2012) (1) and MAXXI (National Museum of 21st Century Arts) in Rome (2009) (2), both designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. Photos © Iwan Baan
Biete Gabriel-Rufael, Rock-Hewn church, Lalibela, Ethiopia (2012). Photo © Iwan Baan
The exhibition, which opened late last month, includes approximately 700 photographic prints, and several hundred more displayed through projected slideshows interspersed throughout the museum. Those images are divided into four sections. The first documents the rise of China in the aughts through a series of images of projects such as OMA’s CCTV Headquarters, under construction from 2004 to 2012, and Herzog & de Meuron’s Olympic Stadium (2008). Beyond these high-profile megaprojects themselves, Baan captured the daily lives of the workers who built them. The second section is something of the best-of-the-best of his commissioned architectural photography and highlights his diverse approaches to capturing projects, ranging from detail close-ups to aerial views. The third chronicles the world’s megacities, such as Tokyo and Lagos, and the recurring themes and idiosyncrasies within those landscapes. The final section is a collection of images pertaining to vernacular architecture and how they conform to local conditions, as well as similarities found across cultures and continents.
Until now, Baan’s work has been exhibited to focus on a specific subject or a particular building or city. “My interests are, to an outsider, far and wide apart,” continued Baan. “But the approach to all of these subjects is in the same voice, intention, and intensity.”
More information about Iwan Baan: Moments in Architecture, including museum hours, can be found here.