Iwan Baan Just Encapsulated Architecture’s Social Media Revolution in a Single Instagram Picture

Orli Hakanoglu Orli Hakanoglu

“Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are fomenting the biggest revolution in architecture since the invention of steel, concrete and the elevator,” exclaimed Architizer founder Marc Kushner on Medium last year. “It is a media revolution.”

If any further evidence was needed to support the architect’s claim, this is surely it.

Iwan Baan and SO – IL(Solid Objectives – Idenburg Liu) have taken to the sky to photograph Florian Idenburg’s latest project. This morning, the photographer dished up some quality views of SO – IL’s project from thousands of feet up in the air via his popular Instagram account. Framed at an oblique angle through the helicopter window, the undulating roof of the building on the UC Davis Campus is a spectacular sight to see.

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The Instagram depicts the Manetti Shrem Museum, a project by SO – IL in collaboration with Associate Architect Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. SO – IL is a Brooklyn-based architecture firm known for projects marked by an optimistic belief in the power of architecture in catalyzing exchange and the realization of ambitiously progressive ideas.

Aerial view

The building is intimately connected to its environment. The repeated striations in the steel canopy of the museum echo those of the patchwork of row crops in the surrounding agrarian landscape. The canopy extends over the site, blurring the edges of an otherwise traditional museum typology, thus smoothing the divide and strengthening the dialogue between building and environment.

Concept diagram

Instagram brings SO – IL’s vision and purpose of the museum to life. The firm describes the building’s unique form as one that “engenders curiosity from a distance, like a lone hill on a skyline.” Indeed, this single Instagram picture crystallizes the architect’s vision and delivers it to the public, free of academic jargon or overly formal language.


This moment speaks to a larger trend pertaining to architecture and social media: The democratic digital process is steadily dissolving the rift between public and the architect. It is particularly exciting because this project, delivered so swiftly via social media, signifies something beyond a singular building; it signifies a revolution in how we connect with and consume architecture and relate to the built environment.

Indeed, Marc Kushner sees the power of social media in bringing about a fundamental shift in the way we consume architecture. In his provocative think-piece “The New Golden Age of Architecture,” he asserted that “social media has infiltrated and ultimately destroyed the insular architectural world. For the first time in history, architects can hear the public.”

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This morning alone, thousands of Iwan Baan’s followers encountered the aerial view of SO – IL’s museum on their Instagram feeds. The image reached even more eyes after Idenburg himself enthusiastically shared (or “re-grammed”) Baan’s image on his own account.

It’s exciting to see what social media is revolutionizing how we relate to architecture. As Kushner notes, just 20 years ago you could only see buildings in print, after they’d been carefully curated and edited by a discerning magazine editor. “Now, social media means the consumption of architecture is both instantaneous and freed from geography,” says Kushner. “It has transcended the historic limits of time and space.”

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As exciting as it is for architecture-lovers around the world who might not happen to be in Davis, California, to see this project, it’s also exciting for the architects behind it. For the first time, the designers have unbarred access to the opinions and reactions of thousands of people at the click of a button. Architectural criticism is no longer reserved for a handful of critics. Architecture is about to get a whole lot better now that the world can weigh in.

All images via SO – IL unless otherwise noted

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