Top of Your Queue: A Movie Review

My Architect is not a recently-released documentary (2003); however, I just saw it for the first time and feel compelled to share it with you. It's that good.

The film focuses on the architecture of Louis Kahn, who is probably best known for designing the Kimbell Museum in Ft. Worth or the Salk Institute in La Jolla. However, the documentary is far from a dry catalog of his life and work. At times hysterical and at others quite tender, the documentary ranks among the best I've ever had the pleasure of viewing.

What makes the film most compelling and provocative is its narrator and director, Nathaniel Kahn, Lou Kahn's only son.

A bit of background helps illuminate the film's central enigma. Louis Kahn suffered a heart attack in Penn Station in 1974. Because he had scratched his address off his passport, his body lay unclaimed in a New York City morgue for three days. When authorities determined that he was in fact a renowned architect, obituaries left out a key detail from his personal life: that he had a son, Nathaniel.

For decades, Lou Kahn juggled three disparate families: one by marriage, and two by circumstance. The film then becomes an a journey of discovery from the point of view of Nathaniel Kahn, Lou's son who was only eleven when he died and who saw his father seldom during his life.

Poignant and gripping, the documentary is punctuated with interviews with seemingly embittered architectural colleagues and disenfranchised relatives. While Kahn's architectural works are the touchstone in the film, what becomes the audience's focus is the longing of a son to know his father.

This film examines the trappings of human creativity and its often ill-effect on the personal lives of creative people. It takes the viewer on a heartfelt journey to architectural masterworks and through the peaks and valleys of family dynamics.

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