Louis Kahn (1901 – 1974) is considered by architecture professionals to be one of the greatest builders of the entire 20th century. And among all his vast production for many scholars, his great work is theSalk Institute for Biological Studiesthat he did in the Californian city ofSan Diegobetween the years 1959 and 1965.
Salk Institute by Louise Kahn
Not in vain, for this creation he had absolute creative freedom. The harmony with the client was total, and the only guidelines they gave him arose from the conversations between the two, from whichKahndesigned and modified as he pleased. So much so that the project certainly took a long time, in addition to the fact that the initially planned budget was widely exceeded.
The result was a space for research, both theoretical and practical. And for this, one of the most emblematic spaces are the laboratories organized around a square. A water channel runs through that square that heads towards the nearby Pacific Ocean, linking the architecture with the environment in a very subtle way. Without forgetting that this gives life to this stony and geometric complex, in addition to giving prominence to this kind of patio towards which the surrounding work buildings look.
Actually those buildings, called towers because of their four floors, are more study placestheoretical than working. And they are arranged not in parallel, but at an angle of 45 degrees. And then there are two other blocks to house the laboratories and other common spaces.
Without a doubt, everything has an aspect of evident modernity, and more so if we look at it through the eyes of the mid-twentieth century. The construction material par excellence is concrete, but not prefabricated, but created and formworked on site, of which the marks on the walls are perfectly visible. That somehow gives it a natural feel, which is also helped by certain wooden elements.
In addition, the facades have that concrete tinted with shades of lavender, which is much more evident in the first and last hours of the day. He also initially thought of endowing the patio with vegetation, to animate it more. But with the intervention of the landscaper Luis Barragán in the end it was decided to place only the canal and a travertine floor there that combines perfectly with the built blocks.
Somehow that empty courtyard space further reinforces the idea of symmetry and it's almost like a mirror of both sides. And of course in its ornamental nudity, the whole is monumental. And all this for a space for research and medicine, since we must remember that the Salk Institute was the brainchild of doctor Jonas Salk, whose name deserves to be known as the discoverer of the polio vaccine.