My Architect

Much more than a profile of architect Louis I. Kahn by his son, Nathaniel Kahn, this touching documentary is many things at once: a fascinating biography, a gorgeously shot travelogue, a provocative disquisition on the relevance of architecture and, above all, the record of a son's poignant search for a father he scarcely knew in the architectural wonders...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Much more than a profile of architect Louis I. Kahn by his son, Nathaniel Kahn, this touching documentary is many things at once: a fascinating biography, a gorgeously shot travelogue, a provocative disquisition on the relevance of architecture and, above all, the record of a son's poignant search for a father he scarcely knew in the architectural wonders he left behind. Kahn died a dismal death: On March 17, 1974, while passing through New York City alone, he suffered a fatal heart attack in the men's room at midtown Manhattan's busy Pennsylvania Station. His body lay unclaimed at the city morgue for three days. What wasn't widely known at the time was that in addition to his wife, Esther, and their daughter, Sue Ann, Kahn was survived by two mistresses, Harriet Pattison and Anne Tyng, and their two children. All three families lived within miles of each other in suburban Philadelphia, but their paths never crossed until the funeral. Twenty-five years later, Pattison's son, Nathaniel, felt it was time to confront his father by visiting Kahn's buildings. That journey, which took Nathaniel from Philadelphia, where his Estonian-immigrant father grew up, to Bangladesh, where Kahn's last great work was completed years after his death, serves as the basis for this extraordinary film. In addition to such wonders as the Kimball Art Museum in Forth Worth, Tex., the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., and the astonishing Capitol Complex in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Nathaniel's quest also took him to the people in his father's life, from the stranger who found Kahn in Penn Station to such admiring contemporaries as I.M. Pei and Philip Johnson. Even more importantly, Nathaniel interviews the women who willingly went from being Kahn's colleagues to the unwed mothers of his illegitimate children. The result is a superb and deeply personal film that not only examines the presence of the artist within the work, but explores a far more universal concern: the meaning of family. The film's recurring motif is that of a small boy standing before Kahn's creations, each as timeless and eternal as the ancient monuments that inspired them. But the image that really touches the heart is the sight of Nathan rollerblading across the concrete courtyard of the Salk Institute — a child at play within the austere embrace of his father's legacy. In searching for Louis Kahn through his art, Nathaniel Kahn created a work of art of his own.

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Much more than a profile of architect Louis I. Kahn by his son, Nathaniel Kahn, this touching documentary is many things at once: a fascinating biography, a gorgeously shot travelogue, a provocative disquisition on the relevance of architecture and, above… (more)

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