Directed by Nathaniel Kahn, starring Louis I Kahn, Nathaniel Kahn, Harriet Pattison, Anne Tyng, Frank O Gehry, Philip Johnson and IM Pei.
The quote about every man having a public life, a private life and a secret life finds one of its most moving cinematic proofs of recent years in the story of internationally renowned architect Louis Kahn and his son, Nathaniel.
Kahn Sr died in the men's toilets in New York's Penn Station after returning from a trip to Bangladesh, where he was building the parliament in Dhaka. He had been in poor health, was bankrupt and having scratched out his address on his passport, it took three days for Kahn's body to be identified. His death made the front page of the New York Times, with the obituaries saying that
he was survived by his wife and daughter.
But Kahn had two other children. Nathaniel's mother, Harriet Pattison, was an architect who worked alongside Kahn and there was another daughter from a relationship with Anne Tyng, another architect in his office. Just 11 when his father died, Nathaniel Kahn describes his Oscar-nominated documentary as an attempt to find "whatever was left of him out there".
Where other people have memories, Nathaniel Kahn has buildings, and he travels across the US, and later on to Israel and Bangladesh to see his father's projects. Along the way he meets his half sisters, praise-lavishing giants of architecture like Frank Gehry and IM Pei and people who worked with a man who only attained the recognition he deserved in the last 10 years of his life. Each encounter gives Nathaniel another piece of a puzzle he can't complete.
Through a wealth of archive film footage, Louis Kahn is also continually onscreen, working, walking and hammering home the idea that his son is never going to catch up with him. But as 'My Architect' progresses it becomes increasingly warm and tender, with Nathaniel's pride swelling on each journey and reaching its height at the film's close when he sees his father's work in Bangladesh and understands just what he means to the people there and, more importantly, to himself.
This beautiful film is about one man's desire to know more about his father, but that quest is universal and the bittersweet feeling radiates into and out of the screen. "I miss him more than ever," Nathaniel concludes. That's a legacy any father would settle for.