Minimal China

Society & Culture

Kris Provoost's documentation of Chinese architecture

This article was originally published on Neocha and is republished with permission.

Kris Provoost has been mesmerized by architecture for as long as he could remember. Born and raised in a quaint village in Belgium, cities captivated his imagination. He was especially enamored with skyscrapers, with their delicate linework, minimal silhouettes, and sleek facades. Unable to shake this love of architectural design, he naturally pursued a career in architecture as an adult.

His earliest architectural jobs were at design firms in Beijing and Shanghai—two of the fastest developing cities in China. The unique glass-and-concrete forms that sprouted up in these tier-one cities inspired him to pick up a camera and capture them in all their glory. Photography soon became a new obsession, and as time passed, he realized that architectural photography was where his true passion laid.

Provoost is an incredibly patient photographer. Before he takes a single image, he spends time studying and observing the building he intends to photograph from every possible angle. He believes that only with close scrutiny can he catch the details that might otherwise be missed. To him, all buildings deserve this respect, considering the amount of time and effort that went into their design and construction.

This detail-driven process comes naturally for Provoost, whose eye for photography has been honed by his time as an architect. “In today’s age, everything moves so fast, ” he says. “It’s really hard to really observe things closely, and that’s why I like my job: I can take the time to really look, observe, dissect, and capture these works.”

Though documentation is part of his work, Provoost’s photography is not only documentary in nature. He believes that his snapshots of Chinese architecture capture the zeitgeist of the country—a place of constant acceleration, defined by megalopolises that change at breakneck speeds. “China moves quickly, and that’s what makes it so interesting,” he says.”I know that when I revisit a place, it’ll be different, even if it’s only slight changes. There will always be new things that grab my attention.”

Provoost works around the philosophy of taming chaos, in that his images aim to present complex architectural feats in simple, visually harmonious frames. His experiences as an architect have re-shaped the way he views cities, and he believes that plenty of lessons can be learned if people can be more mindful of the history and story behind the buildings that make up each city. “By truly looking and observing, we can find out works and what won’t, what needs to change, what ideas from the past can be re-used,” he says. “Whether they’re architects or not though, I hope people who view my images can walk away feeling inspired.”


Instagram: @krisprovoost

Contributor: Chen Yuan