Answer: Baku, Azerbaijan, where the government is spending an estimated $6 billion a year on architecture projects. As we wrote in February, Azerbaijan’s leaders want to make their capital city a destination for the rich and fabulous. The latest example: the Heydar Aliyev Center designed by Zaha Hadid, for whom it offered the rare opportunity of nearly total design freedom. Every roof and ceiling panel is different, Hadid says. Though the center does not officially open until Nov. 1, people are already climbing on its base, says the photographer Iwan Baan. “But I haven’t seen any skateboarders yet.”
Editor’s Note: Though these photographs were commissioned by Zaha Hadid, they were taken by a photographer whose work has been published in the magazine before. None of the pictures were subject to the architect’s approval.