Louis Kahn


     Standing alone against the endless blue sea, the Salk

Institute by Louis I. Kahn is one of a kind. "Louis Kahn's Salk Institute
for Biological Studies on the Pacific coast near La Jolla aspires within its own
spirit to an order achieved through clarity, definition, and consistency of
application"(Heyer 195). To many, this magnificent structure may seem out
of place, but it works well with the surrounding environment because of the
spatial continuity that it possesses. The relation to the site, the tectonic
characteristics, and the ideas of servant versus served, combine to achieve a
great sense of order in the Salk Institute. Many of the ideas that went into the
construction of this design are still utilized in architecture today. Kahn's
modern design takes full advantage of the atmosphere by opening up a broad plaza
between two research and lab wings providing a view of the beautiful Pacific

Ocean and the coastline (Ghirardo 227). The laboratories are separated from the
study areas, and each study has a view of the magnificent blue Pacific with
horizontal light pouring in. This allows scientists to take a break from their
frantic studies and clear their minds with a breath-taking view. In relation to
this idea Kahn stated, "I separated the studies from the laboratory and
placed them over the gardens. Now one need not spend all the time in the
laboratories" (Ronner 158). The two lab wings are symmetrical about a small
stream that runs through the middle of the courtyard and feeds into the ocean.

This steady ban of water flowing towards the sea symbolizes the success that
human can accomplish. I thought this idea had a worthy presence, considering the

Salk Institute is one that promotes research and study. Thus, the courtyard is
considered the fa?ade to the sky. Kahn didn't need to dress up the land around the plan
because the Salk Institute is the landscape. It is one with the site. Kahn
incorporates the use of tectonic characteristics within this design in a number
of ways. The materials used included wood, concrete, marble, water, and glass,
and they all contributed to the Brutalist notions and simplistic plan. He
believed that concrete was the stone of modern man, and therefore it was to be
left with exposed joints and formwork markings (Ronner 164). Weathered wood and
glass combined with the concrete to construct the outside surface. Kahn also
integrated mechanical and electrical services into this architecture, which gave
laboratories a new concept. These technologies were hidden in the design to
continue Kahn's search for order in the plan. Ceiling and column ideas were also
combined to separate the air that you breathe from the air that you throw away.

Interlocking volumes are present throughout the structure, all the way down to
the details on the furniture (Ghirardo 227). The servant and served spaces in
the Salk Institute create a consistent order, which is evident throughout the
design. The laboratories act as the served spaces, while the servant spaces are
represented by the studies. All of the ideas are initiated in the studies or
offices, and the research is carried out in the labs. Therefore, the servant
spaces serve the served spaces. These are not the only ways that the served and
servant concepts are involved in the institute. An idea that is still used to
this day in all forms of architecture is the way the Kahn guides the utilities
through the building in an unnoticeable manner. "Served spaces and servant
spaces are entirely integrated" (Scully 36). Kahn also made a service floor
under each laboratory which established a very flexible space, and this concept
is still used today (Frampton 245). Overlooking the great Pacific, this is no
ordinary office building. Louis Kahn used a combination of modern architecture
with much simplicity to produce arguably his greatest feat as an architect. A
lot of concepts that he initiated in this plan are still in use all over the
world today. The relation to the site, the tectonic characteristics, and the
ideas of servant versus served, all work together to achieve a great sense of
order in the Salk Institute.

Bibliography

Frampton,

Kenneth. Modern Architecture: A Critical History. New York: Thames and Hudson,

1992. Ghirardo, Diane. Architecture After Modernism. New York: Thames and

Hudson, 1996. Heyer, Paul. American Architecture: Ideas and Ideologies in the

Late Twentieth Century. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1993. Pg. 195. Ronner,

Heinz. Louis I. Kahn: Complete Works 1935-1974. Boulder, Colorado: Westview

Press, 1997. Pg.158-165. Scully, Vincent Jr. Louis I. Kahn. Pg. 36-37