iwan baan and francis kéré exhibit Burkinabe light impulse at the AA – Designboom | Ad On Picture

iwan baan and francis kéré: Momentum of Light Exhibition at the Architectural Association, London

While my architecture commissions take me all over the world, these trips [like exploring sub-saharan architecture in burkina faso] are important opportunities for me to document the broader context of architecture,‘ begins iwan ban as the famous photographer talks about his exhibition “Momentum of Light”, which was created in collaboration with the architect Francis Kere, in an exclusive interview with designboom. ‘I am fascinated by traditional building methods, from regional techniques and local knowledge to the building materials that are gathered just meters from one place. I think there is an urgent need to show these building traditions because they are disappearing fast.

interview: iwan baan's photo series sheds light on architecture south of the sahara
a woman walking towards the flat roof of the building, Bobo-Dioulasso. Photo © iwan baan, 2021

iwan ban and Francis Kere‘s ‘momentum of light’ exhibition at Architects Association (AA)’s residency in the former Habitat showroom on Tottenham Court Road presents a series of dramatically contrasting images taken by the renowned architectural photographer while traveling with the Pritzker-winning architect through burkina faso in march 2020. it examines the interplay between natural sunlight, native architecture and everyday life in the african country.

interview: iwan baan's photo series sheds light on architecture south of the sahara
Momentum of Light, an exhibition by Iwan Baan and Francis Kéré, organized by the Architectural Association at AA in Habitation, The Heal’s Building, London, March 12-11. June 2022. Photo © sue barr

an opportunity to travel to Burkina Faso

iwan has always been fascinated by the village of tiébélé in southern burkina faso. he finally had the opportunity to visit the place afterwards to the tobel invited the photographer to create the 2020 annual report of the Swiss lighting manufacturer. However, the collaboration went beyond this survey, as the specialists shed light on the photo exhibition. This even includes displays on Cieluma lightboxes, which evoke a warm glow through photos on translucent print.

when Zumtobel asked me to work on their annual report, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to visit the village of Tiébélé in Burkina Faso and write a story about its extreme light contrasts.‘ continues Ivan Baan. ‘during the day the sun is extremely bright and meets such high temperatures; Then it is basically pitch black in the buildings. The structures are built in such a way that light and heat remain completely outside. The thick mud walls are built from the surrounding soil in an annual process, reapplying the mud and redrawing the traditional decorations on the outside. every year the drawings are slightly adjusted.

interview: iwan baan's photo series sheds light on architecture south of the sahara
Momentum of Light, an exhibition by Iwan Baan and Francis Kéré, organized by the Architectural Association at AA in Habitation, The Heal’s Building, London, March 12-11. June 2022. Photo © sue barr

the lighting in southern burkina faso is mesmerizing, especially in the village of tiébélé. the entrances to these houses are generally knee-high; people have to crawl in. The idea is to keep out light, heat and possible intruders. The very small light that shines through the entrance almost looks like a camera obscura because it is so small. it illustrates what is going on or who is approaching from the outside and reflects the curves of the adobe interior and furniture that have been hand-smoothed for centuries,‘ describes the photographer.

With the latest and greatest technology, incredibly sensitive cameras have been able to quickly and completely handheld capture the architecture, the people and daily operations in near darkness. the series describes the unique qualities of light, from the near pitch black inside and brilliant brightness outside the houses of tiébélé to the irregular skylights in the great mosque of bobo-dioulasso. This articulated study of light, space, place and use emphasizes the complex relationship between people, architecture and environmental conditions.

interview: iwan baan's photo series sheds light on architecture south of the sahara
Momentum of Light, an exhibition by Iwan Baan and Francis Kéré, organized by the Architectural Association at AA in Habitation, The Heal’s Building, London, 12 March-11. June 2022. Photo © sue barr

Contrast between natural sunlight, local architecture and everyday life

the series of photographs, featured in an exhibition at the AA, takes visitors on a journey through burkina faso, from the communal facilities in gando and pouni to the main mosque in bobo-dioulasso and the decorated houses of tiébélé. it communicates iwan baan’s focus for architectural photography: the connection between people, architecture and the surroundings of the buildings. One such highlight are the images inside and outside the Great Mosque in the country’s second largest city. Its tower completely collapsed during the rainy season just a few months after the March 2020 visit. The structure was rebuilt by the municipality. The process emphasized the habit of building there, as locals add new layers to their buildings every year.

I’ve always wanted to visit the village of Tiébélé, so after receiving the project from Zumtobel, I invited Francis Kéré to accompany me on the trip.‘ remarks Ivan. ‘francis comes from the south of burkina faso, knows the villages and local people and speaks the language. I only knew Tiébélé, but he recommended other notable places, such as the Great Mosque in Bobo-Dioulasso, the country’s second largest city. the centuries-old building is one of the great examples of sub-saharan architecture.

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