Baku, Azerbaijan
Zaha Hadid Architects

Photography by Iwan Baan
The unbridled swooping forms and blinding brightness of the glass-fiber-reinforced plastic exterior carry through to the building’s interiors, where floors merge into walls, stairs, and ceilings.

Shooting this project, I wanted to capture how it connects each visitor to the landscape. The cultural center peers up from the earth and wraps around the gardens before disappearing back into the ground again. When visitors aren't resting against the sloping sides, you'll find them inquisitively making their way around the structure, trying to figure out where the building starts and the landscape ends.

To me, what makes Zaha's cultural center remarkable is the fact that, from top to bottom, it expresses one architect's and one client's singular vision—on the scale of a massive public complex. The capital city, Baku, is both captivating and puzzling at the same time. It's the type of place where everything and nothing is possible—so, indeed, photographing there often involves peeling back layers of red tape. When you're inside the building, the all-white, curvy spaces make you feel as if you're wandering through a billowing cloud that is lit by streams of falling stars—it's an atmosphere that perfectly matches my typical jet-lagged state.