Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Modernist and the Boy

Last night we watched My Architect, a film about Louis Kahn made by his illegitimate son, Nathaniel. Kahn was the premier modern architect in the sixties, building abstract masses of concrete that on the surface appear unlivable and uninviting. They might represent the folly of modernism, reducing architecture to form, light, and surface texture.

In the film Kahn's son visits his father's building, hoping to find the emotion that he never received (he saw his father less than a dozen times). What he finds is that Kahn was distant to all his "families". He loved his work foremost. I found most of the film chilling for this reason -- it was a fool's search into the world of a professional man of the mid-twentieth century.

The ending was a counterpoint to this story of isolation and restraint. Nathaniel visits Dhaka, the assembly of Bangladesh, the Kahn's last project. The building appears to have no cultural references to South Asia. However, the citizens regard the building as a monumental achievement for a poor nation during a period of warfare, but also an expression of affection by Kahn for Banglandesh. I was reminded of the affection that German Jews in Nazi Germany showed more interest in German music and theater than Jewish, finding the former more comforting and the latter alien.

Biography of Louis Kahn

Designs by Kahn
Archive of Kahn's Sketches
Professional Life of Kahn



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