Iwan Baan in India

Iwan, Indiana Jones with a camera, experiences his own way of Romancing the Stone at the steps of Punjab, together with Jessica.


A trip through India is so overwhelming that we had to get 7,100 miles away to digest the cacophony of impressions. After three weeks of sweat and sun and sound in northern India, we’ve landed in the silent, snow-covered, codfish state of Massachusetts. Where we are now couldn’t be any further from the place we are describing. It’s silent here. So quite that I wonder: If I held my breath could I hear the snowflakes landing? 

A friend of ours likes to tease that Iwan is the camera-wielding Indiana Jones of architecture. And I think that claim was pretty much confirmed when Iwan proposed that we spend our Christmas family holiday on an ancient step well hunt through Punjab and Rajasthan. 

Iwan is finishing up a book with Dutch architect Bjarne Mastenbroek. For the last several years they’ve explored the role and responsibility of contemporary architecture with regard to its surroundings, either in nature or urban nature through grounded architecture. The step wells clustered in the north of India were one of the last typologies to document for the book.

Of course, the step wells of India amazed us in both their architecture and use as social-communal spaces. But they also left us dumbfounded by their modern, yet bizarre relevance as the most epic selfie backdrop ever.  

Local tourists flock to these structures, peering down into the wells of wonder while chatting about their amazing selfie snap. Excavation and architecture flips their ideas of building. As visitors to the wells scroll through a surplus of selfies, they’re simultaneously drawn to the notion that less is more, and the abundant beauty in architecture by abstraction. 


by Iwan Baan


This production was published in WOTH No4. This issue is still available in english via Bruil & van der StaaijOr get a subscription here!

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