“Salk Institute”, by Louis Kahn
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is a complex of laboratories in La Jolla, California, on the West Coast of the United States. An international benchmark in the Biology world for many years, it was designed by renowned architect Louis Kahn in the 60s, and possesses a beauty and intentionality which deserve to be mentioned. It is located a few kilometres from Northern San Diego, close to the cliffs along the coast. This monumental project is symmetrical, composed of two structures which mirror each other across an empty patio. A narrow channel of water advances through this patio, directing the eye towards the Pacific Ocean. This open space is constructed from travertine marble, which enhances the symmetry and highlights the monumentality of the entire project. This is a “thoughtful making of spaces”, just as Louis Kahn himself stated.
The project was developed in three different phases:
In the first, Kahn designed towers to house the laboratories, and the Meeting House for meetings, the cafeteria and other uses. He also designed a room in which the workers could relax, located at the highest point of the cliffs like the other buildings, as well as a group of houses at the lower part of the cliffs. These four constructions would be separate from each other, but joined by exterior passageways.
In the second phase of the project, Kahn reduced the height of the labs, gave them more surface area and divided them into 3 buildings. The Meeting House, the rooms for recreation and the houses were also redesigned, located in the same places as in the first phase. Kahn believed that the scientists needed spaces in which to take a break from work and relax by talking about other topics, and for this reason he planned to place the leisure areas close to the laboratories.
In the third phase of the project, the laboratories were spread out into two blocks separated by a plaza. In this phase there were three floors for the labs and another three mezzanine levels between them, housing the facilities.
The composition was concluded with the design of the central plaza, which was originally imagined to include trees and natural vegetation. This design was delegated to Luis Barragán, who extended the use of the concrete found in the rest of the construction to the floor of the plaza. The symmetry of the entire composition is completed with a narrow channel of water in the centre of the plaza, crossing it, which heads out towards the ocean and ends at a fountain on the southern side, two or three metres lower than the square.
This is a magnificent example of rationalist architecture and an outstanding project from an unmatched “modern” architect.
FLOOR PLAN 1
FLOOR PLAN 2
FLOOR PLAN 3
FLOOR PLAN 4
FLOOR PLAN 5
FLOOR PLAN: CONSTRUCTION DETAIL