World-famous architect Louis Kahn (Exeter Library, Salk Institute, Bangladeshi Capitol Building) had two illegitimate children with two different women outside of his marriage. Son Nathaniel always hoped that someday his father would come and live with him and his mother, but Kahn never left his wife. Instead, Kahn was found dead in a men's room in Penn Station when Nathaniel was only 11. Nathaniel travels the world visitng his father's buildings and haunts in this film, meeting his father's contemporaries, colleagues, students, wives, and children. Written by
Martin Lewison <email@example.com>
When you want to give something presence, you have to consult nature. And there is where design comes in. If you think of brick, for instance, you say to brick, "What do you want, brick?" And brick says to you, "I like an arch." And if you say to brick, "Look, arches are expensive, and I can use a concrete lintel over you. What do you think of that, brick?" brick says, "I like an arch."
And it's important, you see, that you honor the material that you use. You don't bandy it ...
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What a tribute to Louis Isadore Kahn - Nathaniel Kahn's "My Architect: A Son's Journey" is a worthwhile two-hour journey to experience
What a tribute to his father! He set out on a quest to learn more about a man whom he knew little of, and by the end of the journey, I believe Nathaniel Kahn is content with what he learned and personally felt. The film is 5 years in the making, and a quarter of a century after his death, Louis I. Kahn's total commitment in his work - consistent strong desire to build buildings that are meaningful to humanity and timeless to the whole world, with insight into his life is proudly depicted by his son Nathaniel in the documentary "My Architect: A Son's Journey".
The film is by no means an anthology of Louis' work. There are plenty of books and archived materials that have records of Louis Kahn's projects and buildings. This documentary works like a mystery, writer-director and co-producer Nathaniel Kahn was searching for the man whom he briefly knew as his father.
The film is in chapters. In "Heading West," we're at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies at La Jolla, California. It's a sight worth beholding - Kahn's integral concept of building and environment, optimizing light for the scientists at work is amazing. From a former colleague who worked with 'Lou' 35 years ago, we hear about his meticulous attention to detail, also how 'rambunctious' he could be - certainly didn't mince words in his criticism. A memorable scene is when the camera pulled back wide and we see Nathaniel skating around at the plaza area of the Salk Institute - a tiny figure, like a child happily playing in the bowl of his father's hands.
The "Immigrant" segment brought us to meet Anne Tyng, the architect who collaboratively worked with 'Lou' and also bore him a daughter, Alex. Now at 80, Tyng's return with Nathaniel's film crew to the Bath House project at Trenton, New Jersey, was nostalgic. In "Go to sea," we get to see the Barge for American Wind Symphony Orchestra - all made of steel, and meeting Robert Boudreau, who was surprised by Nathaniel when he finally told him he's 'Lou's' son. Boudreau was touched, he said he had seen Nathaniel when he was six, with his Mom (Harriet Pattison), and he was not to tell anyone that Lou had a son. It was a 'chokingly' emotional moment of reunion.
Like his father "The Nomad," Nathaniel traveled to Jerusalem, and learned about the Synagogue project that his father began but not realized. He visited the wailing wall, and seeing his yarmulke kept falling off/being 'breezed off' his head gave me a sense that he need not be 'totally' Jewish to be his father's son. We continue with sitting down with his two half-sisters at the "Family Matters" segment. We also hear him conversing with his Mom at Maine, and from talking to previous office personnel at his father's office, we come to know how his father intensely worked and practically lived there, sleeping on a carpet on the office floor, weekends and all.
"The End of the Journey" brought us to Ahmedabad, India, to the Indian Institute of Management building. Talking with architect B.V. Doshe was a revelation. In the end, Nathaniel found a very much alive Louis Kahn, his father - his spirits live within him. This documentary is very much a tear-jerker for me. I was teary-eyed most of the time - it was very touching and am in awe of the man, the architect and his son, and the women in his life besides his famous works and buildings. Louis I. Kahn wanted to give his love to the 'whole world,' juggling work and three families (you might say he has three women in his life to keep his inspiration going). As Shamsul Wares, the architect at the Capital of Bangladesh complex (completed 9 years after 'Lou's' death) so poignantly noted: Louis Kahn has given the people of Bangladesh a lot, spending time at Bangladesh, understanding the culture of the place and people - as well as giving them democracy through what he has achieved, and for such a dedicated man, usually the people close to him he'd often miss seeing. It seems the price of being great comes with inevitable personal sacrifices.
This film reminds me of King Vidor's "The Fountainhead" 1949 (good dramatic story in B/W with music by Max Steiner), based on Ayn Rand's novel, with Gary Cooper as the uncompromising architect who stands by his own ideals, and Patricia Neal as the parallel supportive woman in his life.
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