A Life in Art

Sexy Louis Kahn, the Famous Architect We Don’t Really Know

Sexy Louis Kahn? Really? It’s true, and another thing… this famous man was sometimes privately cruel and casually immoral.

By David Stone

Roosevelt Island News

“Kahn designed FDR Four Freedoms Park, a peaceful, sloping city retreat,” we reported, reviewing a show, last year. “His mark on Roosevelt Island is a blissful tribute to our greatest president.”

Sexy Louis Kahn found time to design FDR Four Freedoms Park.
Designed by Louis Kahn, the meadow, centerpiece of Four Freedoms Park.

But a review of a new book by Harriet Pattison, his lover for 15 years, tells a more intimate story. It finishes up with the opening of Four Freedoms Park in 2012.

According to the review by Rowan Moore, Our Days Are Like Full Years: A Memoir With Letters From Louis Kahn, the author goes easy on a sexy Louis Kahn.

Sexy Louis Kahn and his women…

“Not again,” was Kahn’s response “…when his lover Harriet Pattison told him she was pregnant.”

It was complicated. Even then.

And the architect had good reason for concern, but not good in the moral sense.

“He’d had another lover, Anne Tyng, who had a daughter with him eight years before,” Moore observes, and that’s not all.

Because sexy Louis Kahn also had a wife Esther, Pattison discovers, wealthy enough that she props up his not so great business ventures.

All three are in Philadelphia, and Moore has fun comparing his international work travels to the stealth of sneaking around an American neighborhood.

Irony and Four Freedoms Park…

“In 1974, Kahn died of a heart attack in a restroom at Penn Station in Manhattan. In his pocket, they found his design for Four Freedoms Park,” we recalled when Inversions opened at Gallery RIVAA.

You might wonder that sexy Louis Kahn found time for designs, but there’s another small note.

Harriet Pattison aspired to become a landscape architect, and that’s worth remembering as the book closes with Pattison at the opening of Kahn’s gem on Roosevelt Island.

Our Days Are Like Full Years, based on Louis Kahn’s letters, was published last month and is available on Amazon.


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