My Architect

Director: Nathaniel Kahn

U.S.A.| 2003. Colour. Dolby stereo SR. 116 mins.

Lionised by the likes of Frank Gehry (who did the curvy Bilbao Guggenheim) and IM Pei (famed for the Louvre’s glass pyramids), Louis I Kahn ranks among America’s greatest architects, but his refusal to compromise left many unfulfilled projects when he died of a heart attack in the gents at Penn station New York in 1974. Not only did he leave debts of half a million dollars, but his body lay unclaimed for two days because he’d scratched out the address on his passport.Curiously, his son Nathaniel, this film’s director and narrator, wasn’t even listed among the family members in the obituaries, a puzzling omission explained by the fact that in addition to his ‘official’ family, Kahn had also fathered illegitimate children by two other women.
In part, Nathaniel Kahn’s film sets out to answer whether his father’s evident cultural stature could excuse or even explain such destructive behaviour. Putting together biographical details and visiting his buildings starts to put things into perspective, but it’s his extended family’s bittersweet experiences which make this far richer than a mere arts profile. Interviews with former lovers now in the serenity of old age reveal the depths of feeling this difficult, charismatic man clearly aroused, while the climactic footage of Kahn’s masterpiece, the Capitol building in Bangladesh, symbol of an entire nation’s budding democracy, inspires moving filial pride as it reconciles an errant father’s fractured emotional and architectural legacies. Responsive to the spatial impact of the buildings themselves, this is above all a fascinating, touching human story: when was the last time you cried at an architecture documentary?

Book Tickets