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 faade 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:Works CitedFrampton, 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.