“My Architect,” Nathaniel Kahn profiles his father, architect Louis Kahn

I remember when I first saw My Architect: A Son’s Journey, the 2003 documentary film about American architect Louis I. Kahn. The College of Architecture at Texas A&M has sponsoring a viewing of the film at Rudder Auditorium on-campus in 2004, and it was the first architecture-related film I can recall watching, and I really enjoyed it.  Kahn led an extraordinary career as an architect when he died bankrupt and alone due to a heart attack in a Penn Station bathroom in 1974.  When Kahn died, he had been deemed by many as the greatest living American architect. However, his body remained unidentified for two whole days and he was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. His son, Nathaniel Kahn, was 11-years-old then, and this personal documentary he made serves as a record of his quest to finally put the pieces of his father’s compartmentalized life together.  

The film was made by Louis Kahn’s son Nathaniel Kahn, and features interviews with many giants of modern architecture, including Frank Gehry, Muzharul Islam, I.M. Pei, Anne Tyng and Philip Johnson. Throughout the film, Kahn visits all of his father’s buildings including The Yale Center for British Art, The Salk Institute, Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban and the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad among others.  In the course of the film,  it is revealed that Louis Kahn had juggled three families for many years, one official and two not (Nathaniel was one of the illegitimate children). He was so secretive about his triple life that many of his colleagues didn’t even know he was married.  My Architect was nominated for the 2003 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

AWARDS

  • Gold Hugo – 2003 Chicago International Film Festival, Outstanding Directorial Achievement – Nathaniel Kahn
  • 2003 Directors Guild of America

NOMINATIONS:

  • Best Documentary – 2003 Independent Spirit Awards
  • Truer Than Fiction Award – Nathaniel Kahn – 2003 Independent Spirit Awards
  • Best Documentary – 2003 National Board of Review
  • Best Documentary Feature – Nathaniel Kahn – 2003 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  • Best Documentary Feature – 2003 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
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