My Architect: A Son's Journey

Synopsis:
Year:
2003
6 Views

Louis I. Kahn,

whose strong forms of brick and concrete

influenced a generation

of architects and made him,

in the opinion of most

architectural scholars,

America's foremost living architect,

died Sunday evening

apparently of a heart attack

in Pennsylvania Station.

He was 73 years old.

Besides his wife, Mr. Kahn

leaves a daughter, Sue Ann.

When I first read that obituary,

I have to admit I was

looking for my own name.

I was his child too, his only son.

I didn't know my father very well.

He never married my mother,

and he never lived with us.

But I can still remember every detail

of the few times we spent

a whole day together.

On this afternoon, we had a picnic.

He painted with watercolors,

and my mother snapped these pictures.

He died when I was 11.

The circumstances of his death

have always fascinated me.

He was bankrupt and alone on

his way back home from India.

He collapsed in the

downstairs men's room

in Penn Station, New York.

The police couldn't identify him,

because, for some unknown reason,

he crossed out the

address on his passport.

They took him to the city morgue,

where he lay unclaimed for three days.

What was he thinking at the end?

Had he seen anyone?

Had he talked to anyone?

Had he really decided to leave his wife

and come and live with

us like my mother said?

For years, I struggled to be satisfied

with the little piece

of my father's life

I'd been allowed to see.

But it wasn't enough.

I needed to know him.

I needed to find out who he really was,

so I set out on a journey

to see his buildings

and to find whatever was

left of him out there.

It would take me to the

other side of the world

looking for the man who left

me with so many questions.

My father had been dead 25 years,

so there wasn't much time left

if I wanted to meet

any of his colleagues.

I figured I'd start at the top:

the guy with the glasses.

- Mr. Johnson.

- Good to meet you.

- Oh, it's a pleasure to meet you.

- You're Lou's son?

Yes.

Generations go by quickly, don't they?

I've just decided Lou was

the most beloved architect of our time.

- Really?

- Yeah... Well, think of anybody else.

Frank Lloyd Wright was

too cantankerous to love.

Mies van der Rohe wasn't...

you couldn't talk to him at all.

Corbusier was mean.

But Lou, now, there was a man.

All my buildings don't add up

to what his three or four buildings,

because he, when he

did get a client...

however he ever got any

clients is a mystery,

because artists don't get jobs.

Every time I've tried to do art,

I've ended up with a...

I've made much less.

Nothing to be ashamed of, naturally.

I do it the other way.

I do it by numbers and...

and public fame and all that.

But Lou did it by being an artist.

He'd sit and work on art, see?

And I always wished... I think he

did too... wished he knew me better,

and I always wished I knew him better.

- Why?

- Well, you know,

there's some things

that don't go into words.

It's animal

attraction...

his mind, really,

because his person...

to look at him wasn't much a pleasure.

- It wasn't?

- It couldn't be.

See, he was so scarred.

Funny, he never talked to me

as directly as he should have.

- Who?

- Lou.

He never came here, though.

- Didn't he ever come here?

- To the glass house?

That's strange, 'cause

I built it in '49.

Possible. Possible.

Do you think Lou would

have liked this house?

- No.

- Why?

Oh, rigid boxes, you know. He...

He was his own artist.

He was free compared to me.

The first time I'd gotten

a real sense of Lou's legacy

was when I was a student up the road

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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"My Architect: A Son's Journey" Scripts.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 15 Nov. 2019. <https://www.scripts.com/script/my_architect%3A_a_son%27s_journey_14292>.

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