Tiger City is a feature length film, directed by Sundaram Tagore,1 exploring the work of American architect Louis I. Kahn and the creation of what is considered his magnum opus, the National Assembly Complex in Dhaka, Bangladesh amidst that nation’s liberation war. The film animates the story of Bangladesh’s independence movement, offers unprecedented footage of an architectural feat and conveys the deep humanism that founds both the Bangladeshi spirit as well as Louis I. Kahn’s artistic vision.
- 1. Sundaram Tagore is a Calcutta-born Oxford-educated art historian, gallerist, and an award-winning filmmaker. A descendant of the poet and Nobel Prize-winner Rabindranath Tagore, he promotes East-West dialogue through his contributions to numerous exhibitions as well as his four art galleries and their multicultural and multidisciplinary events.
UN: India is the land of Laurie Baker and Charles Correa? Where does Louis Kahn fit into the scheme of city building?
ST: The first generation of master builders were Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier; the latter built his only city in the Punjab.
The second generation of modern builders has only one figure who became a global star architect and that happens to be Louis Kahn. His impact was enormous. People look at him as a guru architect—in India they called him stapathi. To many, he is considered more than an architect—he was a philosopher and a poet and those are the qualities that shine through in his buildings. When experiencing one of Kahn’s structures one is truly transported to the realm of silence and light.
Generations of architects learned under his tutelage, at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale. He turned out a great number of star architects and scholars in the field. He was an engaging and benevolent figure.
UN: How did you experience the ethos of being between silence and light?
ST: To bring the concept of silence and light to the screen, we had to revisit the parliamentary complex during different periods of the day to capture the variations of daylight and sound. The completely empty building could feel like haunted Mughal ruins. When accompanied by the right kind of music, the film brings out what you actually experience within these spaces. Tiger City will be shown at the IIC Delhi in February 2018.
UN: What is it about architect Louis Kahn that made his work nonpareil?
ST: Louis Kahn loved architecture of great mass, gravity, weight—and silence, the kind of buildings that lift you up and make you feel bigger than life. Architecture has a profound impact on us, like when you walk through the inner city and sometimes feel emotionally squeezed or when you experience great classical spaces like the Taj Mahal or the Pantheon. You know that you’re in the presence of great art and that’s the kind of architecture that Louis Kahn wanted to create.