Jan 17th 2024

How One Building Can Shape a Future

Caleb Baldwin (B.ARCH. ’17) spent his childhood preparing for his dream job as an architect, and the allure of working in S. R. Crown Hall in Chicago brought him to IIT College of Architecture.

One early experience stands above the rest, though: a studio trip to the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, a building designed by the late Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid. “It was my first time seeing a Zaha Hadid building in person, and I was amazed. Little did I know that in just a few years, I would be working for the firm that created it,” Baldwin says.

After his 2017 IIT graduation and gaining work experience, Baldwin hoped to join the master’s program at the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA), Design Research Laboratory. “My thought was this: Zaha Hadid is the best architect in the world, she learned from the AA, she taught at the AA. Therefore, the AA must be one of the best schools of architecture in the world,” Baldwin says.

Baldwin was accepted into the AA in 2017, “and I was off to London. I eventually had Patrik Schumacher [principal at Zaha Hadid Architects] as a professor. He liked my project, and ultimately offered my group-mates and me a job at the conclusion of our thesis.”

He joined Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), an international firm based in London, eight years later. “Our office has a longstanding, unique style that is often described as futuristic, fluid, edgy, and daring,” Baldwin says.

IIT’s College of Architecture and the AA have different instructional philosophies, which allowed Baldwin to bring a unique perspective to ZHA’s London team.

“IIT taught me that minimalism was the epitome of elegance—form always follows function, details are just as important as the big moves, and rigorous research and diagrams are king. The Design Research Laboratory taught me to think outside of the box, to be unbothered by real-world limitations—to dream the future of the built environment,” Baldwin says.

After a stint in fast-paced design competitions, Baldwin is now focused on interiors at ZHA. “I’ve worked on everything from shopping centers to furniture to small objects like an award. This is really the reason why I love my job: my tasks are always varied,” Baldwin says.

While Baldwin thinks he may return to the U.S. someday, he has no plans to leave his dream job any time soon. Instead, he’s happy bringing a piece of Mies to London.