CFS has designs on moving documentary

Meghan Roskopf

Louis Kahn is considered by many to be the most important architect of the second half of the 20th century.

As a Jewish immigrant from Estonia, Kahn overcame many obstacles including poverty and a devastating childhood accident in order to create several remarkable buildings. His accomplishments include the Exeter Library in New Hampshire, the Salk Institute near San Diego and the Bangladeshi National Assembly Building.

His powerful and spiritual creations meld a modern sensibility with the feel of medieval castles and ancient pyramids. Vincent Scully, professor emeritus of art history at Yale University, where Kahn taught for several years, has praised Kahn’s designs saying, “God is in the work … it is timeless.”

Although Kahn’s artistry was based on a search for truth and clarity, his personal life was filled with secrets. Within his marriage, Kahn had one daughter. Yet, the chaotic side of his life included fathering two illegitimate children with two different women outside of his marriage.

Coincidentally, all three of his families lived within a few miles of each other in the Philadelphia area. This close proximity allowed Kahn to visit his only son, Nathaniel, and his mother, landscape designer Harriet Pattison, about once a week.

Showing up unannounced, he would stay a short time and never spend the night. These visits gave Nathaniel the hope that someday his father would come and live with him and his mother.

Never fulfilling his son’s dream, in 1974 Kahn was found dead in a men’s room in Penn Station.

Dying of a heart attack, the bankrupt Kahn was found only with only one piece of identification, a passport with his name and address inexplicably crossed out. This is quite ironic considering that his buildings earned him great fame but little money.

His obituaries stated that Kahn was survived by a wife and daughter, but soon after his death his bizarre living arrangements were made public. At the time of Kahn’s death, Nathaniel was only 11 years old.

Over twenty years later, Nathaniel decided to set out on an epic five-year journey to reconcile the life and work of his mysterious father. His quest is the basis for his first-person documentary, “My Architect: A Son’s Journey.”

Released in 2003, the film captures Nathaniel as he travels around the globe from the subterranean corridors of Penn Station to the streets of Bangladesh and from the coast of New England to the inner sanctums of Jerusalem politics. Along the way, we meet his father’s colleagues, students, lovers and other children. What he created was a tale of art and love along with betrayal and forgiveness. In this way, Nathaniel follows in his father’s footsteps by creating his own monument – a humorous and emotionally engaging portrait of a public figure with many skeletons in his closet.

The eighth offering in Villanova’s current Cultural Film and lecture Series, “My Architect: A Son’s Journey,” will be shown four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Nov. 13 at 7 p.m., Nov. 14 at 3:30 and 7 p.m., and Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for students and $5 for all others.

The Monday evening showing only will feature Randy Granger as the guest speaker. Mr. Granger, a teacher at the Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, will introduce the film and lead a discussion, “Deconstructing Louis,” afterward.