With no lifts or escalators, the tower is essentially a forty-five-story walk up. You’ll find seniors or those less physically-abled on the lower floors, and the young and healthy near the top. Public spaces like this stairwell are painted with care in order to make the tower feel more like an apartment building.

Iwan Baan is not as interested in what architects build as he is in the beautiful ways that people appropriate the spaces once the planners are gone. In his TED Talk, Baan — whose breathtaking image of lower Manhattan after Hurricane Sandy hangs on at least one of our walls — shows incredible images from communities thriving in ways that seem quite opposite to the uniformity of suburbs. First, Baan takes us to Chandigarh, India, where people inhabit buildings created by modernist architects Le Corbusier in very different ways than expected. Then, Baan takes us to Caracas, Venezuela, where an abandoned 45-story building has become a miniature city. From there, Baan takes us to a Nigerian slum built on water, to a community in Cairo thriving amid recycling heaps, and to an underground village in China.

Baan’s talk will have you marveling at human ingenuity. In it, the photographer shows 154 images. Since they appear rapid-fire, Baan has selected some to share here, where you can take your time and appreciate the details.

All photos courtesy of Iwan Baan.