The Dutch architect and photographer Bas Princen directs his research towards photographing the urban landscape. Abandoned places, whose initial function has been forgotten, and which have been spontaneously re-occupied for other uses have interested the artist since his earliest series. Artificial Arcadia (2004) very specifically explores the way in which the changing Dutch landscape is transformed by users for unprogrammed activities. Princen’s work is not documentary. The artist conceives the image not as the recording of a reality, but as the construction of the idea of architecture and landscape which he makes for himself. He cuts out certain details of the environment in order to create a new context peculiar to the image. In Artificial Arcadia, the landscape and the people are captured in such a way that they seem to be as one, as if these sites had been specially modelled for them. The themes chosen by Princen have to do with recurrent questionings in contemporary architecture and urban planning: ruins, transparency, transformation, and the development of modernist architecture. The series Utopian Debris (2006) shows ambiguous places: it is unclear whether they are constructed or destroyed, places which, for the artist, are emblematic of our present-day urban condition. With Refuge: Five Cities (2009), a set photographed in the outskirts of Istanbul, Beirut, Amman, Cairo and Dubai, Princen focuses on the urban metamorphosis in these Middle Eastern countries. Through the choice of a framing which isolates the structures and de-contextualizes them, he reveals their disturbing similarity. These cities duly disappear as specific places, “dissolving into an imaginary urban entity”. Last of all, Reservoir (2011), which is both an exhibition project and a book project, focuses on the ambiguity existing today between the manmade landscape and the natural landscape.
In 2000, the Dutch architect and photographer Bas Princen (1975) founded TJJLP Designers in Rotterdam after studying at the Eindhoven Academy of Design and the Berlage Institute. His photographic work is regularly exhibited (ArchiLab, Orléans, 2001 and 2004; Venice Biennale, 2004 and 2010; Artificial Arcadia, TENT, Rotterdam, 2004; Invisible Frontier; Landscape Fictions, Innsbruck, 2008; Cinq Villes, Institut Néerlandais, Paris 2010; Reservoir, DeSingel, Antwerp, 2011). His pictures have illustrated many publications (Riegler Riewe: Definite Indefinite, 2001; Mutations, 2001). As a book author (Artificial Arcadia, 2004; Rotterdam, 2007; Galleria Naturale, 2008; Refuge, Five Cities, 2009; Reservoir, 2011), Princen is also involved in the project titled Shrinking Cities International Research, headed by Philipp Oswalt and the Atelier HSL, dealing with the transformation of the landscape introduced by the construction of high-speed railway lines in the Netherlands. He regularly works with the artist Milica Topalovic, with whom he won the Prix de Rome, the Dutch prize for architecture (2006). Together with the Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen team, he was awarded the Lion d’Argent at the 2010 Venice Biennale for the installation titled Seven Pieces, 21 Perspectives.