My Architect

Weeping Camel is scripted, but it has the look and feel of a documentary, using real people in their own environment, dramatizing a typical, though invented, real-life situation. It works beautifully.

Nathaniel Kahn hardly knew his father, Louis Kahn, one of the last century’s greatest architects. My Architect records the ‘illegitimate’ Nathaniel’s pursuit of a man who never publicly acknowledged him. He interviews people who did know him, shows archive footage, and visits all his major buildings.

When Nathaniel visits Dhaka, he talks to a Bangladeshi architect, who, without any affectation, is moved to tears by Louis’s National Assembly buildings. It couldn’t happen now: a Jewish architect designing for Muslims, among other things, the nation’s principal mosque.

Louis Kahn was a visionary and idealist who showed a way beyond modernism’s steel and glass boxes. Too few of his designs were built – such as his 1960s masterplan for the redevelopment of Philadelphia, which excluded the car. To understand the Bangladeshi veneration of a man who, apart from his work, was probably unknowable, see this – a fascinating film about an architect, and a uniquely moving film about buildings.

mag cover This article is from the August 2004 issue of New Internationalist.
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