- Iwan Baan’s photograph of the Guanzhou Opera House in Guanzhou, China, designed by Zaha Hadid, is part of “The Way We Live,” an exhibition of Baan’s work at the Perry Rubenstein Gallery in Los Angeles.
- The National Stadium in Beijing, better known as the Bird’s Nest, was designed by Herzog & de Meuron in collaboration with the artist Ai Weiwei.
- A view of slum dwellings in Caracas, Venezuela. Among the tall buildings in the background is the Torre David, an unfinished office building that is now inhabited by squatters.
- A close-up view of the Torre David in Caracas that shows the individual dwellings fashioned in the skyscraper’s unfinished concrete shell.
Baan’s grandmother gave him a camera for his birthday when he was 12. “I was completely fascinated,” he said of the camera. But within a week, he had traded it in for a better one. He started working with architects when a friend told him about an exhibition that Rem Koolhaas was presenting in a big round tent in Brussels. Baan, who is Dutch, had been making panoramic photos and offered to document the exhibition. Koolhaas’s CCTV building was under construction in Beijing at the time, and Baan decided to follow its progress. “I wanted to see how these gigantic projects got built in China,” he says. “The crews are enormous. Small cities are created on site because the workers come from far away. I was struck by the way people still seem to live normal lives even though they are sometimes completely disconnected from their surroundings.”
That connection to the human side of architecture sets Baan apart from his peers. While he has photographed many well-known buildings, he is equally fascinated by the vernacular. His photographs of the Torre David in Caracas (for which he won a Golden Lion award at the Venice Architecture Biennale) are a focus of the exhibition. The skyscraper, built for Venezuela’s largest bank, was left unfinished when its developer died in 1993 and Venezuelan banks collapsed the following year. Because of an acute housing shortage in the city, locals quickly moved in, fashioning their own living spaces from the partially constructed concrete shell. “The people made a completely vertical city,” Baan says. “Because it’s self-governed, it was very safe, except for the fact that there were often no handrails.”
The exhibition is on view at Perry Rubenstein Gallery in Los Angeles through April 13.