the world's most visited architecture website

Films & Architecture: "My Architect"

  • 04
  • by
  • Articles

This week we will propose the first documentary of the list within our section of Films & Architecture. There is not much to say about the figure of Kahn, since it has been worldwide recognized. Nevertheless this is a film that captures in a magnificent way the greatness of Kahn’s work through his son’s journey. I guess everyone related somehow with architecture will feel touched by this extraordinary recording. Let us know in the comments what is (or was) your experience watching the film.


Exeter Library
Exeter Library

Original Title: My Architect Year: 2003 Runtime: 110 min. Country: United States Director: Nathaniel Kahn Writer: Nathaniel Kahn Soundtrack: Joseph Vitarelli Photography Director: Karl Freund & Günther Rittau Cast: Louis Kahn, Nathaniel Kahn, I.M. Pei, Philip Johnson, Frank O. Gehry


My Architect is a tale of love and art, betrayal and forgiveness — in which the illegitimate son of a legendary artist undertakes a five year, worldwide exploration to understand his long-dead father.

Louis I. Kahn, who died in 1974, is considered by many architectural historians to have been the most important architect of the second half of the twentieth century. A Jewish immigrant who overcame poverty and the effects of a devastating childhood accident, Kahn created a handful of intensely powerful and spiritual buildings — geometric compositions of brick, concrete and light — which, in the words of one critic, “change your life.”

While Kahn’s artistic legacy was an uncompromising search for truth and clarity, his personal life was filled with secrets and chaos: He died, bankrupt and unidentified, in the men’s room in Penn Station, New York, leaving behind three families — one with his wife of many years and two with women with whom he’d had long-term affairs. In My Architect, the child of one of these extra-marital relationships, Kahn’s only son Nathaniel, sets out on an epic journey to reconcile the life and work of this mysterious, contradictory man.

The riveting narrative leads us from the subterranean corridors of Penn Station to the roiling streets of Bangladesh (where Kahn built the astonishing Capital), and from the coast of New England to the inner sanctums of Jerusalem politics. Along the way, we encounter a series of characters that are by turns fascinating,hilarious, adoring and critical: from the cabbies who drove Kahn around his native Philadelphia, to former lovers and clients, to the rarified heights of the world’s most celebrated architects — Frank Gehry, I.M. Pei and Philip Johnson among them.

In My Architect, the filmmaker reveals the haunting beauty of his father’s monumental creations and takes us deep within his own divided family, uncovering a world of prejudice, intrigue and the myths that haunt parents and children. In a documentary with the emotional impact of a dramatic feature film (including an original orchestral score), Nathaniel’s personal journey becomes a universal investigation of identity, a celebration of art and ultimately, of life itself.


Previously posted on this section…

Cite:Daniel Portilla. "Films & Architecture: "My Architect"" 04 Jun 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>