Photographer Bas Princen explores the relationship between image and architecture

exhibition of Entrance architecture
Photographs in the exhibition include Entrance (Vanna Venturi House, 1962-1964, Philadelphia), 2015 (left) and Original entrance (Room of Peace, Palazzo Pubblico, 1338-1939, Siena), 2014 (right)
(Image credit: Bas Princen)

‘Bas Princen. Image and Architecture’ at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery presents a selection of lyrical architectural photographs by Bas Princen that explore the historic relationship between architecture and material culture. The Dutch photographer and artist, who trained as an industrial designer in Eindhoven and studied architecture in Rotterdam, has made a name for himself capturing the experience of architecture and place through photography.

Known for his focus on the places where architecture meets the urban and natural landscape, Princen takes images that are extremely powerful and poetic – this exhibition at Vitra presents him foremost as an artist, rather than an architectural photographer.

Featured in the exhibition are his historical portraits of places including Italian Renaissance buildings, a gargoyle atop the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the first Crystal Palace in London, the New York skyline of the 1930s and the home that architect Robert Venturi built for his mother in Philadelphia amongst other unique and curious corners and details of the built environment across the world.

View of the New York City

Detail #6 (View of the New Yorker, Ilse Bing, silver gelatin print, 1936, collection CCA, Montreal), 2018.

(Image credit: Bas Princen)

Princen explores the relationship of architecture and image – trying to capture and understand how a building can transition from three dimensions into two, and it is through this lens that he examined architecture found and documented in material culture across the world, photographing it again, reframing architecture within objects almost like the process of reflection of a mirror in a mirror.

He photographs wall paintings and tapestries, tracing the historic relationship between photography and architecture, and the human instinct to document and create visions of our manmade world. This exhibition shows how he is becoming part of this concept himself, showing his large-scale photographs printed on Japanese rice paper, a technique that Princen has developed over time, to allow the images to exist as objects within the very material culture that he investigates.

Le Stryge and Cappella del Perdono architecture

Detail #4 (Le Stryge, anonymous cyanotype, 1860, collection CCA, Montreal), 2018 and Cappella del Perdono (Palazzo Ducale, 1467-1472, Urbino), 2017 (right).

(Image credit: Bas Princen)

Studiolo del Duca and The Trivulzio Tapestries

Bas Princen, Studiolo del Duca, 2016 (left) and April (The Trivulzio Tapestries, Cycle of
Bramantino, 1504-1509, Milano), 2018 (right).

(Image credit: Bas Princen)

Crystal Palace and 8th Pylon architecture

Detail #2 (02-Bas Princen Progress of the Crystal Palace, P.H. Delamotte, albumen silver print, 1855, collection CCA, Montreal), 2017 (left) and 8th Pylon (Karnak, 1458 BCE, Luxor), 2017 (right).

(Image credit: Bas Princen)


‘Bas Princen. Image and Architecture’ is on view from 24 February to 5 August. For more information, visit the Vitra Design Museum Gallery website


Vitra Design Museum
Charles-Eames-Str. 2
D-79576 Weil am Rhein


Harriet Thorpe is a writer, journalist and editor covering architecture, design and culture, with particular interest in sustainability, 20th-century architecture and community. After studying History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Journalism at City University in London, she developed her interest in architecture working at Wallpaper* magazine and today contributes to Wallpaper*, The World of Interiors and Icon magazine, amongst other titles. She is author of The Sustainable City (2022, Hoxton Mini Press), a book about sustainable architecture in London, and the Modern Cambridge Map (2023, Blue Crow Media), a map of 20th-century architecture in Cambridge, the city where she grew up.