Is This the World’s Most Beautiful Opera House?

Paul Keskeys Paul Keskeys

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To become one of the world’s foremost architectural photographers, one must go to great lengths to produce images that move beyond pure representation and offer a unique perspective on beautiful buildings.

No one understands this better than award-winning photographer Iwan Baan, and the Dutchman provided vivid evidence of this in a stunning new movie by NOWNESS. The film follows one man and his camera through the snow-swept landscape surrounding MAD ArchitectsHarbin Opera House, an A+Award-winning project in the extreme north of China.

The breathtaking footage shows the Harbin Opera House at one with nature, its undulating shell merging with the snow, its crystalline glass roof glistening like shards of ice in the northern sun. As we travel through this mysterious, barren landscape and enter the serene interior of the theater itself, Baan explains the thought process behind his shoot, offering a fascinating insight into the challenge of creating unforgettable visual stories about architecture.

Baan emphasizes that, despite his preoccupation with capturing the ostensibly inanimate forms of the built environment, it is crucial to consider how those volumes are interacted with, occupied and experienced by human life.

“I’m not trying to create timeless images which could be in any moment in time,” explains the photographer. “They always should have very much a connection to a specific place, time, people, a context, culture … this kind of thing. So people are, in that sense, a very important part.”

Just as with many great architects, the photographer constantly aims to harness the visceral power of place: For Baan, the architecture and its context must work hand in hand, playing equal roles in the creation of truly powerful photographs.

“For me, it’s always important to find projects, buildings and places which have … a relationship to a site, to a specific context, to a specific city or country,” reflects Baan. “There should be kind of an urgency, necessity or complete juxtaposition of these kind of things. I think it’s also here with the Harbin Opera House.”

For more images and information about the Harbin Opera House, dive into MAD’s extensive firm profile on Architizer. For more A+Award-winning projects just as beautiful as this one, head this way to explore every amazing building.

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All screenshots courtesy of NOWNESS