Iwan Baan: Moments in Architecture exhibition - photographing the soul of architecture

Iwan Baan,

Weil am Rhein, Germany,


Vitra Design Museum,

The Vitra Design Museum is hosting the first major retrospective dedicated to the famous architectural photographer Iwan Baan. The exhibition offers an extraordinary insight into the photographer's work, from shots of iconic architecture, to images where Iwan Baan captures moments of life and human interaction in and around buildings.

Iwan Baan:  Moments in Architecture exhibition - photographing the soul of architecture

In an era in which images of buildings are disseminated in real time and influence the design process, Iwan Baan is a key figure in the transformation of architectural photography. His quick and precise modus operandi has strongly influenced the course of this discipline, redefining the way we perceive contemporary cities and buildings. His images are a celebration of the poetry hidden within architecture and, at the same time, capture the human essence animating the built spaces. Iwan Baan has the gift of being able to capture those unexpected moments, those unplanned details inside and around the architectural spaces, giving life to stories that would otherwise remain unnoticed.

From October 21, 2023 to March 3, 2024, the Vitra Design Museum presents "Iwan Baan: Moments in Architecture". An extraordinary retrospective celebrating Iwan Baan's work, from his first iconic twenty-first century shots, to lesser-known but equally significant projects and to his observant documentation of informal architecture, like the round villages in China or the rock-hewn churches in Ethiopia. Iwan Baan deeply believes in the narrative power of images, seeking to tell stories through his photographs. He is not interested in immortalising buildings as entities separated by time, but rather in capturing the specific moment, the context and the people who live there. He is not in search of the perfect image planned to the smallest detail but, rather, captures "the soul of architectures", the moment in which the architecture comes to life. He observes when people take possession of a new space, when workers take a break, or when unexpected events occur. This approach nor only adds a poetic dimension to his images, but also makes them extremely human.

The exhibition offers a comprehensive overview of the photographer's work, from documenting global megacities to traditional and informal buildings, to his close relationship with some of the most important contemporary architects, including Rem Koolhaas, Herzog & de Meuron, Francis Kéré, Sou Fujimoto, Tatiana Bilbao, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, SANAA and Toyo Ito.

The first section of the exhibition focuses on China's influence on contemporary architecture. Iwan Baan's photographs document the construction of two monumental projects carried out in Beijing: the CCTV Headquarters designed by OMA and the Olympic Stadium designed by Herzog & de Meuron, also illustrating the hard work and daily life of the workers who helped build these structures.

In the second section, Iwan Baan's works range from the MAXXI Museum designed by Zaha Hadid in Rome, to the Rolex Learning Centre designed by SANAA in Lausanne, from the National Taichung Theatre designed by Toyo Ito in Taiwan to projects created by Balkrishna Doshi in Ahmedabad. Ranging from aerial shots taken from a helicopter to breathtaking details, Iwan Baan captures the very essence of each building.

The photographs of the different cities reveal how the photographer is a tireless chronicler of the urban landscape who, through his lens, explores its growth, the legacy of modernity, globalisation and local communities. His work is an open window on urban life, from the modern metropolises to the seemingly remote suburbs.
During his work travels Iwan Baan also pays close attention to informal and traditional projects, such as the world's largest temporary tent city set up in India for the Hindu Maha Kumbh Mela religious festival or the Torre de David in Caracas, exposing through his photographs the hidden beauty and complexity of these pieces of architecture.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue containing 600 photographs that embrace the past twenty years of Iwan Baan's work. After its debut at the Vitra Design Museum the exhibition will be relocated and set up in other international museums.

(Agnese Bifulco)

Images courtesy of Iwan Baan and Vitra Design Museum, photos by Iwan Baan.

01 Iwan Baan, Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, Germany, 2017, Architecture: Herzog & de Meuron © Iwan Baan
02 Iwan Baan, CCTV Headquarters, Beijing, China, 2011, designed by OMA © OMA © Iwan Baan
03 Iwan Baan, Beinecke Library, New Haven, USA, 2017, Architecture: SOM © Iwan Baan
04 Iwan Baan, National Stadium, Beijing, China, 2008, Architecture: Herzog & de Meuron © Iwan Baan
05 Iwan Baan, construction of the National Stadium, Beijing, China, 2007, Architecture: Herzog & de Meuron © Iwan Baan
06 Iwan Baan, International Fair of Dakar, Senegal, 2013, Architecture: Jean François Lamoureux, Jean-Louis Marin und Fernand Bonamy © Iwan Baan
07 Iwan Baan, Gando Secondary School, Burkina Faso, 2021, Architecture: Kéré Architecture © Iwan Baan
08 Iwan Baan, Baku, Azerbaijan, 2011 © Iwan Baan
09 Iwan Baan, Biete Ghiorgis, Rock-Hewn church, Lalibela, Ethiopia, 2012 © Iwan Baan
10 Iwan Baan, M+ Museum, Hong Kong, China, 2022, Architecture: Herzog & de Meuron © Iwan Baan
11 Iwan Baan, New York after Hurricane Sandy, USA, 2012 © Iwan Baan
12 Iwan Baan, Las Vegas, USA, 2022 © Iwan Baan
13 Iwan Baan, Kumbh Mela Festival, Prayagraj, India, 2013 © Iwan Baan
14 Iwan Baan, Teshima Art Museum, Tonosho, Japan, 2010, Architecture: Ryue Nishizawa © Iwan Baan
15 Iwan Baan, Tiébélé, Burkina Faso, 2021 © Iwan Baan
16 Iwan Baan, House H, Tokyo, Japan, 2009, Architecture: Sou Fujimoto Architects © Iwan Baan
17 Iwan Baan, Mikimoto Ginza 2, Tokyo, Japan, 2006, Architecture: Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects © Iwan Baan
18 Iwan Baan, Los Angeles, USA, 2010 © Iwan Baan
19 Iwan Baan, Rolex Learning Center at the École Polytechnique Fédérale (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland, 2010, Architecture: SANAA © Iwan Baan
20 Iwan Baan, National Taichung Theatre, Taiwan, 2016, Architecture: Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects © Iwan Baan