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My Architect: A Son's Journey

4.5 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A riveting tale of love, art, betrayal and forgiveness -- in which the illegitimate son of a legendary architect undertakes a worldwide exploration to discover and understand his father's and the personal choices he made.

Louis I. Kahn is considered by many historians to have been the most important architect of the second half of the twentieth century. While Kahn's artistic legacy was a search for truth and clarity, his personal life was secretive and chaotic. His mysterious death in a train station men's room left behind three families -- one with his wife and two with women with whom he had long-term affairs. The child of one of these extra-marital relationships, Kahn's only son Nathaniel, sets out on a journey to reconcile the life and work of this mysterious man.

Revealing the haunting beauty of his father's monumental creations and taking us to the rarified heights of the world's celebrated architects and deep within his own divided family, Nathaniel's personal journey becomes a universal investigation of identity, a celebration of art and ultimately, of life itself.


One nonfiction film that truly creates a narrative journey, My Architect is filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn's engrossing search for his father. Louis Kahn, one of the most celebrated architects of the 20th century, died in 1974 and left behind a highly compartmentalized life, including two children born out of wedlock to two mistresses. Nathaniel interviews the members of this somewhat puzzled family, but his deepest experiences are visits to the buildings that his father made (such as the grand Salk Institute in La Jolla, California), culminating in an emotional trip to Bangladesh. Here, Louis Kahn designed a massive government complex, a soaring achievement (and fascinating paradox--a Muslim capital designed by a Jewish man). This film asks: where does an artist truly live? In his life, or in the work he leaves behind? Nathaniel Kahn takes an amazingly even-tempered approach to this, given his personal stake in the story, and the result is a uniquely stirring movie. --Robert Horton

Special Features

  • Question and Answer with Director Nathaniel Kahn
  • Scene selections
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: Louis Kahn, Frank Gehry, B.V. Doshi, Frank O. Gehry, Philip Johnson
  • Directors: Nathaniel Kahn
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: New Yorker Video
  • DVD Release Date: February 15, 2006
  • Run Time: 116 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0006Q93EM
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,612 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "My Architect: A Son's Journey" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
My Architect rates five stars for its haunting portrayal of architect Louis Kahn.

Louis Kahn, who died of a heart attack in New York's Penn Station in 1974, was an architect's architect-- he inspired many greats, including Phillip Johnson and Frank Gehry, but never attained the substantial commercial success that he craved. His major works were comparatively few, and include the Salk Institute, the Yale Art Museum, India's Institute of Management, and the capital of Bangladesh. Kahn's buildings distill form and light with a purity that many term mystic. Viewing Kahn's projects some 30 years after his death, it appears probable that Kahn's designs were ahead of their time. His commercial difficulties were also likely exacerbated by an intense, difficult temperament.

Kahn's professional life was only surpassed in complexity by his personal affairs. He fathered three children by three mothers, remaining married to his first wife while continuing to be involved with his other two families. If Kahn's designs were enigmatic, his personal affairs only compound his mystery. Two of the women who bore Kahn children, both architectural colleagues in his firm, are interviewed in the film. His children, reared separately, meet to examine their father, their various mothers, and their memories of his funeral. Both his wives and children speak of Kahn's magnetism and mystery-- one could be riveted by him, but the totality of the man was always hidden.

Nathaniel Kahn, Kahn's youngest child and only son, is the director and producer of My Architect. The film probes his father's professional and personal legacies with delicacy, wistfulness and regret. Nathaniel was eleven when Kahn died. This fine film is an homage to the accomplishments and failures of an enigmatic and eccentric genius, whose architecture inspired many and whose personal conduct combined love with selfishness and self-protection.

Highly recommended-- a strong five stars.
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Format: DVD
I bought this documentary on a whim because I enjoyed "Supersize Me" and "Farenheit 9/11." My sense now is that the genre of the documentary is entering a golden age, since the ones I've seen lately, including "My Architect," seem superior by far to mainstream dramas and comedies.

The basic premise here, easy to grasp, is the journey of the "illegitimate" son of American architect Louis Khan to discover who his shadowy father was by talking to people who knew him and by viewing and assessing his dad's work. This yields much humor and pathos. The people the younger Khan speaks to include A-list architects like I. M Pei and Phillip Johnson as well as ordinary Joes and are an interesting lot with compelling things to say about the Jewish design wizard.

Exploring Khan's buildings through his son's camera proves an even greater treat. Highlights include the sprawling sea-splashed Salk Institute on the California coast and the stunning light-suffused Capital building in Dacca, Bangladesh. What really endears us to the subject matter is that neither the weaknesses of the architect father nor his documentarian are swept away; rather they're discussed openly, and both come across as real--fragile flawed but immensely talented.

This film, a great balance of educational and emotional elements, is so worthwhile and enjoyable it's encouraged me to give the whole documentary genre a fresh look. I appreciate a discussion of architecture that wasn't dumbed down for the audience, such as when the film discussed the influence of ancient ruins, bombastic and timeless, on Khan's work. Bravo!
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Format: DVD
For the five years that I was in grad school at Yale I went almost every week to the Yale Center for British Art, which was the last design of Louis Kahn's to be built (the National Assembly in Dacca was completed after Kahn's death but was designed earlier). It was difficult to see the building's exterior with any kind of scope, since other buildings surrounded it. But I have rarely loved a building so much on the inside. After entering the building you would ascend to the first floor through the monolith shown in the film (actually the casing of a spiral staircase) to confront two massive George Stubbs's canvasses. That initial space was magical, not just because of the two extraordinary paintings, but because of the space and the way it welcomed so much light into it. I used to love to go up to the section where the Turner's and Constable's were kept and lean on the railing and gaze about.

So, I approached this film as someone who felt a debt of gratitude to Kahn like I've felt to no other architect except Louis Sullivan (for reasons I won't delve into here). I felt that I had been a direct recipient of his largesse, so I was very interest to hear of Nathaniel Kahn's attempt to reconnect to his father. I actually knew next to nothing of Kahn's life when I saw this film. I knew of several of his buildings, including the National Assembly in Dacca, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, and the Salk Institute, but I knew nothing of Kahn himself except that he died under bizarre circumstances and that he was an immigrant.

The details of Kahn's life were quite astonishing. The short version is that although he was married to the same woman for most of his adult life, he had children by two other women and maintained at least some connection to those children.
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